Air pollution becomes a campaign issue

This is Mary Macleod not campaigning at Brentford market on Sunday. She’s not campaigning yet as she doesn’t want to count her chickens before the Brentford & Isleworth Conservative party meeting tonight at which the Conservative candidate will be chosen. Hence her rather modest Sunday morning tweet: ‘Lovely to be at the fabulous @BrentfordMarket this morning with great friends.’ It is a favourite haunt, as when she was MP Brentford marketplace received funding from Conservative Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, as part of his Outer London Fund. They visited the market together in April 2015 to see how the money had been spent. On Sunday Mary said: “I love coming to Brentford Market. It has a great, relaxed atmosphere and there are always fabulous and interesting street stalls. I particularly enjoyed finding out about the electric cars on display from Tesla and Nissan – it is the future for motoring, particularly given the air quality challenges we are facing across the country”.

Funny she should mention that. While Mary was advocating electric cars as the solution for air pollution, the Conservative government was coming under fire for delaying plans to tackle air pollution. The long-awaited plan to improve air quality has been kicked in to the long grass till after the election. Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom told MPs on Monday that her proposals for tackling nitrogen dioxide levels would not be released until after the election despite a High Court order to publish it by 4pm that day. The High Court ruled last November that the Government’s plan for tackling air pollution was so bad it was actually illegal. That is now a full five months ago, yet the Government left it until after the election had been called to lodge a request with the High Court for an extension. Now Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom is able to claim that although her plan has been written, it is being held back so as not to breach the rules on Government activity in the run up to the local and general election. Manwhile air pollution is believed to be responsible for 40,000 unexplained deaths a year. It particularly affects young children and the elderly.

The M4 corridor has air pollution levels that are consistently higher than is considered safe. Labour candidate Ruth Cadbury, standing for re-election in Brentford & Isleworth, has campaigned against the expansion of Heathrow in part because of the likely increase in traffic and the added contribution that will make to air pollution in our bit of west London. She tweeted: “Pushing ahead with #3rdRunway will only make illegal levels of air pollution in Hounslow area worse. Don’t residents deserve better?” “47% more flights will mean more px, staff, freight & flight servicing. Don’t tell me that won’t cause additional pressure on local roads”.