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Children with health issues plead with anti-Ulez councils to back expansion

Some outer London boroughs have raised the prospect of legal action  (PA)
Some outer London boroughs have raised the prospect of legal action (PA)

Children with health issues have pleaded with London councils opposed to the expansion of the ultra low emission zone to help create a “city that is safe to breathe in”.

Eight of the 24 boroughs affected by the widening of the zone to the Greater London boundary have yet to consent to having Transport for London’s Ulez enforcement cameras on their roads.

Four of the Tory-run boroughs – Bromley, Bexley, Hillingdon and Harrow – have served a “pre-action” letter on Mayor Sadiq Khan, warning of a possible High Court challenge.

The zone is due to expand on August 29, meaning an additional 200,000 drivers a day will have to pay the £12.50 daily levy.

On Tuesday City Hall released a letter signed by 42 children and teenagers, some of whom were hospitalised by lung conditions, warning that the capital’s poor air remained “toxic” to them.

They accused council leaders opposed to the Ulez expansion of being “happy for us to keep getting sick” and added: “Even though the plan is there to make us breathe clean air, they just think our lives aren’t worth it and they won’t pay for us to be healthy.

“Please can we just have a city that it is safe to breathe in. I know us youngsters are asking a lot here and you guys really like your dirty cars but, come on, give us a break.”

City Hall is seeking to promote the health benefits of the Ulez in the face of concerns about its impact on Londoners unable to upgrade their cars due to the cost of living crisis.

The London Assembly has urged Mr Khan to increase the size of a £110m scrappage scheme by £100m. The mayor yesterday described the request as an “excuse to delay” and sidestepped questions about whether he would allocate additional funds.

He told the Standard: “I say to the Conservative and the Lib-Dems: spend time talking to a bereaved family. Spend time visiting Great Ormond Street, going to the respiratory unit, and seeing those kids who have got chronic asthma.

“Spend time speaking to somebody with dementia, heart disease or cancer attributable to the poor quality air. Speak to the driver of an old diesel vehicle who has been breathing in poison and has a severe cough. I’m not willing to delay.”

Suburban boroughs opposed to the Ulez expansion have pointed to TfL data indicating it would result in only marginal improvements in air quality in parts of the capital.

Bromley leader Colin Smith said: “Whilst we all support the call for cleaner air, it should be noted from the latest authenticated data to hand that Bromley already has amongst the cleanest air in London.”

The children’s letter was organised by the Mums for Lungs campaign group.

Transport Minister Richard Holden on Tuesday said many Tory MPs and councillors were “absolutely apoplectic” with the Ulez expansion as it “really impacts on some hardworking people”.

He said it would impact on small businesses driving into London and nurses and carers who lived in the Home Counties and drove to work in the capital.

Mr Holden told LBC: “I think the Mayor of London should think again. I think he should listen to the Conservative members in those councils, but also MPs, and it’s not just those in Greater London who are affected by this.”