Council underlines commitment to improve air quality and public health

At a meeting last night, Merton Council’s Cabinet reconfirmed their commitment to improve air quality and public health across the borough.

Merton has been designated as an air quality management area, which means more must be done to reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide. Nearly two thirds of this main pollutant is emitted from vehicles and is particularly harmful for older people and children’s health.

The council wants to encourage people to make more journeys on foot, by bike or on public transport, rather than driving. To support people to change their behaviour, the council is introducing a new parking charges system, which will apply to controlled parking zones, public car parks, on street parking and parking permits.

Since the Cabinet agreed, at their meeting in July, to introduce the new parking charges, the decision was called in by the Overview and Scrutiny Commission. One of the two call in requests was upheld and resulted in additional consultation being carried out to ensure the council’s process on equality analysis was fully delivered. This was in addition to the public consultation earlier this year, which resulted in more than 3,000 representations.

Merton Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Housing and Transport, Councillor Martin Whelton, said: “Over the last month we have carried out further consultation with groups and organisations impacted by the changes in response to the Overview and Scrutiny Commission, we have redoubled our efforts to engage with them and a number of responses were reported to cabinet for their consideration.

“The council has a responsibility to improve air quality and promote active and healthier lifestyles by supporting people to reduce their car use. Parking charges are just one aspect of our Air Quality Action Plan which is set to deliver huge benefits for public health while reducing air pollution.”

The council has already introduced a variety of walking and cycling initiatives, including six kilometres of new cycle routes and 651 more cycle parking spaces over the last six years. So far, 101 electric vehicle charging points have been installed across the borough, with an additional 36 planned by the end of the year. There are also car clubs in the borough, which give drivers access to cars without the cost or responsibility of owning one.

Income from parking charges can only be spent on running the parking service and transport projects, including filling in potholes, resurfacing borough roads and new cycling schemes. It also goes towards the Freedom Pass – London’s concessionary travel scheme. Merton has spent around £27million on the Freedom Pass during the last three years.