Kingston Council (RBK) pledged to do more to tackle air pollution as the borough marked Clean Air Day 2019 on Thursday (June 20).

A spokesperson for the council revealed that air pollution was believed to be related to one in every 20 deaths in the borough, and said that RBK were lobbying the Mayor of London and central government alike for more assistance in tackling the problem in Kingston.

RBK also published a short series of updates on pro-environmental policies introduced in Kingston recently, from increased numbers of charging points for electronic vehicles to the development of the GoCycle bike scheme (see below).

As the Comet reported previously, Kingston faces serious health problems from air pollution, with one site in particular — 14-16 Cromwell Road — containing 74.4 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre in 2017, making it one of the most toxic places for air quality in Greater London.

Clean Air Day 2019 falls five days ahead of a crucial Environment and Sustainable Transport Committee meeting at RBK on June 25.

The meeting will see the committee debate whether RBK should join many other UK councils and national governments in declaring a "climate emergency" in response to the global climate crisis — something Council Leader Liz Green said she did not support in conversation with the Comet back in March.

RBK said Thursday it had produced a report that will be submitted to the meeting setting out the council's "ambitions" to improve air quality in the borough.

The report highlights the work done by RBK and this regard, "through a range of initiatives including:

  • Installing new electric vehicle charging points
  • Providing 26km of safe cycling lanes across the borough
  • Introducing dockless electric bike hire to make cycling more accessible
  • Planting 2,000 trees over four years
  • Trialling ‘School Streets’ — closing roads to traffic at the start and end of the school day, and introducing campaigns to reduce engine idling," a spokesperson said.

Cllr Hilary Gander, Portfolio Holder for Environment and Sustainable Transport, said:

"We’re committed to improving air quality across the borough and on Clean Air Day I’d like to celebrate the many measures the council is already putting in place.

"Residents tell us about their concerns and I look forward to working closely with them and other partners to make the changes we need to make.

"We will continue to lobby the Greater London Authority and central Government to support us in cleaning our air."

On Wednesday, RBK announced plans to introduce 100 new roadside charging points and five rapid charging points in the borough over the next three years.

Meanwhile, the council said that a new route on their vaunted GoCycle bicycle routes scheme would soon open on Wheatfield Way.

A spokesperson offered further details of the new route:

"As the fourth Go Cycle route to be completed, the two-way cycle lane in Wheatfield Way is a significant step forward in providing a safe route for cyclists travelling between Kingston Station and College Roundabout, past Old London Road and Fairfield North, as well as in the future, connecting with new protected lanes into Kingston from Kingston Hill, and joining with the Go Cycle routes that serve Surbiton and Tolworth, along Penrhyn Road and the riverside," the spokesperson said.

Cllr Gander dubbed the Wheatfield Way route a "tipping point" in the borough's approach to tackling pollutions and environmental issues in Kingston.

"The completion of this cycle lane represents a 'tipping point' in the development of Kingston's new cycling network.

"To go by bike has the added incentive of knowing that it helps both our own health and that of our neighbours as we move about our borough, and is one way we can pledge our support to improving air quality on Clean Air Day," she said.

Grove Ward Councillor Jon Tolley added: "I travel to and from the town centre most days, and Wheatfield Way offering a safe route to cycle.

"(It's) clean, quick and healthy, but for many it feels dangerous, and it's only when we see more of this excellent and safe cycling infrastructure that many more will choose bike as their preferred means of travel."

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