Ultra Low Emission Zone

This week tough new emissions standards came into force in London in a bid to combat high levels of pollution.

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will mean that all vehicles, from motorbikes and cars, to lorries and buses, will have to meet the new low emission standard or pay a fee.

At the moment around two million people in London live in areas where air pollution exceeds the safe legal limit. Here in Dartford, it is common for the westerly winds to blow those pollutants in our direction.

For years we have lived with traffic problems at the Dartford Crossing which, coupled with the pollutants coming from London, means people in Dartford suffer the effects of these invisible toxins.

The most dangerous pollutants are small particles (PM) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) with diesel vehicles being the worst emitters. Last month, in a Public Health England review, it was stated that air pollution was the biggest environmental threat to health in the UK with between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths every year attributed to long-term exposure.

Under the new rules, cars, vans and motorbikes have to pay £12.50 per day and lorries, buses and coaches have to pay £100 if they do not meet the required low emission standard.

Petrol cars which meet the standard have been widely available since 2006 and 75 per cent of all TFL buses now meet or exceed the standard. The aim is for all buses to meet the standard by 2020.

Air pollution is a silent killer with strong evidence that it is linked to the development of many illnesses including heart disease, stroke and lung cancer for those who are exposed for a long time.

The measures, brought in by the Mayor of London, are controversial with many small businesses hit hard financially by them.

I hope these changes and the plan to build the Lower Thames Crossing away from Dartford, will lead to better air quality for everyone living in Dartford.