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London Councils call for greater powers to stop air pollution as peers debate Environment Bill

The London Councils group has backed amendments to the Environment Bill which would give local authorities new powers to control air pollution where World Health Organisation (WHO) limits are exceeded.

During the latest debate on the Environment Bill in the House of Lords, Lord Tope, Co-President of London Councils, proposed amendments that would grant any local authority in England the power to designate an area within its borders an air quality improvement area (AQIA) if the air quality of that area exceeds WHO air quality guidelines for one or more pollutants.

"This designation is, in effect, a gateway to implementing the range of air quality measures provided for in the rest of this group of new clauses," Lord Tope said.

Within the so-called AQIA, councils would have the power to apply limits specified by the Secretary of State to the amount of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emitted from appliances, such as gas and solid fuel boilers, combined heat and power plants, construction machinery and standby diesel generators.

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Chairman of the City of London Corporation's Port Health & Environmental Services Committee, Keith Bottomley, said: "Local authorities have been given the statutory responsibility to improve air quality, but they have very few regulatory controls. These essential measures would give them tough new powers to deal with non-transport related air pollution."

Mr Bottomley added: "Londoners want to see a major improvement in air quality and their councils need the ability to take bold and practical steps to combat air pollution at a local level."

Mayor Philip Glanville, Chair of London Councils' Transport and Environment Committee, said: "We are working closely with the City of London Corporation and Lord Tope to lobby government for amendments to the Environment Bill. This includes asking for local authorities to receive additional powers to help enforce the Clean Air Act. The current legislation is complicated and difficult to enforce and not tough enough to tackle London's air quality challenge."

London Councils also called upon the government to adopt the WHO's target for PM2.5 as a legal limit to be met no later than 2030 and introduced as soon as possible.

The government should also create a national £1.5 billion' Clean Air Fund' to enable cities to implement 'Clean Air Zones' and tackle emissions, the group has said.

Adam Carey

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