Merton recognised as leading changemaker in public sector

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The Air Quality team at Merton is delivering cleaner construction across London.

The London Construction Low Emission Zone is a world first. Our entirely new approach cleans up London’s construction industry. Through education and awareness, with muddy boots on the ground, checking site machines and removing the most polluting. 

Neighbourhood communities are directly benefitted through reduced pollution, and therefore better health outcomes. 

By recording engine standards, alongside power and operational hours, modelled emissions savings from project activities can be calculated. 

The project covers all of London, from wealthy areas to the very most deprived. Regeneration frequently takes place in close proximity to dense housing in less-affluent areas. 

Research shows that those exposed to the worst air pollution are more likely to be poorer Londoners and those from minority communities. 

Although the larger organisations benefit from in-house environmental teams, the majority of construction in London is undertaken by smaller contractors.

By hunting out any undeclared sites, smaller developers can be effectively engaged to play their part.

Engaging a single site can lead to wider organisational change, sometimes on national scale. The activity in London is rightly seen as the shape of things to come more widely.

Merton Council has won the Sustainable City Award for London’s Public Sector Organisational Changemaker of the Year for their ground-breaking work on the Cleaner Construction for London project. The project, which is being implemented by the borough’s Air Quality team, is delivering the world’s first Low Emission Zones for Construction on behalf of all London boroughs and The Mayor of London.

Since 2016, the Cleaner Construction for London team have inspected over 8,000 machines on over 2,500 sites across all 32 London boroughs. Their brand-new approach requires construction companies to replace polluting machines with cleaner machinery, in turn placing 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 which has been endorsed by the construction industry.

Reducing air pollution is a public health priority for the council at borough-level, and for the Mayor of London – who funds the project – at city-level. A study by Imperial College London found that in 2019, toxic air contributed to the deaths of more than 4,000 Londoners, with an estimated 87-100 of them residing in Merton. With the Low Emission Zone for Construction directly responsible for the reduction of approximately 1,100 tonnes of Nitrogen Dioxide, and 55 tonnes Particulate Matter, two very important pollutants that we need to address, the project is making a real difference to the air we breathe, and therefore health outcomes in the capital.