Merton residents in push to up air quality

A group of Merton residents met up to share recommendations to tackle air pollution at a public meeting last Tuesday.

The meeting held at the Trinity United Reformed Church was organised by Sustainable Merton, a community-led initiative which aims to encourage local action.

Questions such as how air pollution affects the lives of residents in Merton and what the council is doing to improve air quality were just some of the issues debated by the public and guest speakers alike.

Guest speaker Tom Walsh, CEO of Sustainable Merton, said: “My message tonight is to not feel powerless.”

Mr Walsh argued that education about the damage bad air quality can cost needs to be a central priority.

He added: “One of the problems with the clean air issue is everyone feels that it is beyond their scope to affect it.

“That makes us feel powerless and plays into the hands of unscrupulous people and unscrupulous politicians.”

According to research from King’s College London, air pollution is estimated to kill nearly 9,500 people in London per year, it has also been linked to numerous health conditions from lung cancer to asthma, dementia and diabetes.

Attendants at the meeting were brimming with suggestions to tackle the issue, such as; launching a walk to school campaign, improving local transport, to installing more electric car charging points around the borough.

Merton Tree Warden volunteer coordinator Jane Plant said: “We must protect the existing trees we already have, look at planning applications and talk to your councillors.”

Speaker Andrea Lee, Healthy Air Campaigner for ClientEarth, encouraged people to also think nationally.

She said: “Without national action, there is not much hope for local action to succeed.”

ClientEarth campaign for a comprehensive network of Clean Air Zones across the UK – which keep the most pollutant vehicles out of the most polluted area, whilst champion public transport, walking and cycling.

Echoing this view, Clean Air Merton are encouraging people to give their views on the Mayor of London’s latest consultation on London’s proposed ultra low emission zone (deadline 25 June) and are arguing that the zone should be extended to Merton.

If you’d like to support Clean Air Merton and to receive email updates, email [email protected].

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