Further to the call on Council to take further action in tackling air pollution (Tom Killick, 2 March), comprehensive parking reform would also make a huge difference to both congestion and pollution levels . Current parking policy facilitates rather than regulates households, allowing unlimited multivehicle permits, whilst discriminating against households without vehicles, regarding both access and cost of visitor permits. As a consequence, over recent years, Council has also allowed expansion, rather than restriction, of vehicular parking along main roads, such as Kingston road and even more alarmingly, created these parking spaces over existing cycle lanes and pavements. The result is to deter rather than encourage both walking and cycling, endangering safety, both from the additional pollution caused by parking manoeuvres & idling, as well as physical danger, with pedestrians not protected by barriers, as drivers attempt, often with great difficulty, to park half on and off pavements. Cyclists are perilously forced out into the main traffic fare, away from fast diminishing, piecemeal cycle lanes. The Council has already taken action regarding a diesel surcharge, but needs to go much further if there is to be any significant environmental improvement. It would be helpful to know how many residents are currently turning up at GP surgeries and hospitals, having difficulty breathing whilst walking outside, and being prescribed inhalers?
Merton Green Party Member
MERTON GREENS HIGHLIGHT POOR AIR QUALITY IN MERTON
You reported (20th January) on toxic air alerts in several London boroughs. Pollution in Merton is well above legal and healthy limits, according to the latest tests carried out by Merton Green Party. The levels of nitrogen dioxide were tested at ten sites around Colliers Wood, Mitcham and Wimbledon, mainly near primary schools and GP surgeries. Evidence has shown that older people, people with long term health conditions and children are particularly vulnerable to the impact of air pollution. Pollution can make it harder for these people to breathe, make existing conditions worse and can stunt children's lung growth. Nine of the ten sites were above the recommended maximum levels, with three being more than twice the the maximum. Around 10,000 Londoners die prematurely each year as a result of long term exposure to nitrogen dioxide.
We believe these results show the importance of supporting the Mayor's proposed Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), making it extend beyond the north and south circulars, so Merton residents can breathe without risk to their health. We also call on the Council to take more action to tackle this problem, such as introducing 20mph speed limits across the borough, fines for vehicles whose engines idle unneccessarily, making cycling and walking more attractive alternatives to car use, urging Transport for London to introduce less polluting buses and pressing the government to take action on diesel cars such as via a scrappage scheme.
Merton Green Party
Dear Wimbledon Guardian,
Air pollution is estimated to account for over 9,000 premature deaths in London every year, and motor vehicles are a major contributor. It is therefore good news that Wandsworth Council has recently introduced fines for vehicles whose engines are left running unnecessarily, joining other boroughs such as Camden and Islington. Merton Council should now consult on introducing a similar policy.
Merton Green Party
Latest Government figures show 1,249 vacant homes in Merton. That is a substantial number, especially given the desperate need for genuinely affordable housing. The Council charges 50% extra Council Tax for homes which have been empty for at least two years: why not reduce this to one year, to encourage owners to bring these homes back into use?
Merton Council has a target of 40% of new homes being "affordable". However, figures from the London Tenants Federation for the last year show that of the 412 new homes delivered in Merton, only 94 were "affordable" - less than a quarter. Merton relies on "viability assessments" provided by housing developers which claim to show that meeting the 40% target would make their plans unviable. We have been pressing the Council to make these assessments public, but they have so far refused to do so. Three other councils (Islington, Greenwich and Southwark) now publish them - Merton should do so too.
Caroline Pigeon's claim (interview on 15 January) that the Lib Dems are the only party against Heathrow expansion is wrong. The Green Party opposes not just Heathrow expansion but any airport expansion, because of the damage to our environment it would cause.
Merton Residents returning to work after 4th January will have noticed that public transport fares have gone up. On that day, Sian Berry, the Green Party's candidate for London Mayor, announced a range of policies to make the system fairer. In particular, there will be a simpler four zone structure, with reduced fares for everyone in the present zones 4, 5 and 6. Other proposals include a cheaper fare for journeys involving a change between bus, tram, tube or train, and lower fares for people who work part-time and cannot take advantage of monthly tickets. Full details are available on Sian's website: www.sianberry.london