Merton Council’s ground breaking low emission zone for construction work wins national award

Merton Council has won a prestigious national industry award for pioneering the world’s first low emission zone for construction.

The Air Quality team from Merton’s Regulatory Services Partnership won the Environmental Services category of the LGC Awards at a virtual award ceremony held this afternoon (Wednesday 28 October).

The Cleaner Construction for London project has improved air quality on construction and demolition sites, increasing compliance in London’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ), while promoting behavior change and championing good practice.

Merton has proactively led London’s Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM) Project since 2016, following a successful bid for funding from the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund.

The team developed a brand new approach to air quality management, including an on site auditing process. The requirement to replace polluting machines with cleaner machinery places pressure on the supply chain, opening up competition from new technologies. Sites compete against each other to demonstrate their green credentials, which has proven to be an effective way of ‘soft’ enforcement and has been endorsed by the construction industry.

The initial project with South London boroughs, raised awareness of the NRMM LEZ and delivered a site compliance rate of 92%, a threefold increase from the initial 28%. Now working on behalf of all London boroughs, the team’s pioneering work is shaping positive change in the construction industry and delivering on-the-ground site compliance. Emissions savings have been so successful that it is now a model for cities throughout the world.

Merton Council was also a finalist in the Public Health category of the LGC Awards. Judges shortlisted Merton Council’s work on diabetes and the innovative approach taken by the public health team and Merton Health and Wellbeing Board, which used people’s experiences of living with the condition to inform policy and deliver services through an initiative called the Diabetes Truth Programme.

This shaped the development of Merton’s Tackling Diabetes Action Plan, which has resulted in formal links between diabetes services and mental health services; diabetes services being tailored to meet the needs of specific cultures including the Tamil, African and Caribbean communities and the revision of the council’s advertising policy to restrict the promotion of unhealthy food and drink.

The action plan has also involved the creation of the Merton Mile – a signposted route in Mitcham to encourage residents to walk, jog or run a mile each day. In April last year, Merton had the highest number of referrals in south west London to the National Diabetes Prevention Programme which supports people at risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The proportion of these referrals attending their first appointment was 97% – the highest rate in London.

The Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis MBE, said: “I’d like to congratulate everyone involved in the Cleaner Construction for London project on winning this prestigious award. This enforcement project is a world first and their pioneering work is revolutionising how the construction industry reduces emissions on construction and demolition sites.

“I would also like to congratulate our public health team – being shortlisted for the LGC Awards is a fantastic achievement. The importance of their work on diabetes has been brought into focus during the COVID-19 pandemic, as people with the condition are more at risk of developing a serious illness if they catch the virus.”