Calls for new council powers to fight non-traffic air pollution

UK local authorities and the City of London Corporation urgently need tough new powers to tackle air pollution caused by boilers, construction machinery and generators, a debate in the House of Lords heard yesterday.

The call comes after Greater London Authority figures revealed that in 2019 there were 119,000 people in London - including 21,000 children - living in areas exceeding the legal limit for NO2.

The research shows 99% of people in the capital are living in areas exceeding the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended PM2.5 guidelines, and 98% of state primary and secondary schools are located in areas exceeding the same limits.

Proposals for new powers, drawn up by the City Corporation and London Councils, and backed by the Green Party’s Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb and Clean Air in London, were introduced as an amendment to the Environment Bill by Lord Tope, Liberal Democrat Peer and Co-President of London Councils.

The Environment Bill proposes new air quality obligations for local authorities, but it doesn’t confer any new regulatory powers on Councils to combat non-transport related pollution.

The new amendment would allow councils to designate ‘Air Quality Improvement Areas’ in their most polluted zones, where levels of air pollution exceed national targets or WHO air quality guidelines.

In these areas, the governing bodies would be given powers to apply a range of restrictions to be set out in new Regulations to be made by the Secretary of State.

Such restrictions would limit the use of the most polluting plant, such as gas boilers, solid fuel boilers, combined heat cooling and power plant, and stationary generators.

Co-President of London Councils, Lord Tope, said:

“With these new powers the UK’s local authorities could target non-traffic-based emissions and cut air pollution across the country.

“Air pollution is a serious public health crisis and cleaning up toxic air has to be a major priority.

“These plans will give councils a real shot in the arm and help them take a significant step towards cleaner air.”

Chairman of the City of London Corporation’s Environment Committee, Keith Bottomley, said:

“Local authorities have been given the responsibility to improve air quality, but they do not have regulatory powers to deal with non-transport related pollution.

“These essential measures would give them tough new powers to further clean up the UK’s air.

“The public must see a major improvement in air quality. Their councils need the ability to take bold and practical steps to combat all air pollution at a local level.

“Together we are committed to safeguarding the health of those who live in, work in and visit this country and to taking decisive action to ensure everyone is protected.”

Mayor Philip Glanville, Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, said:

“London boroughs stand ready to tackle the significant issue of toxic air pollution. Across the capital, air pollution is a public health crisis that significantly affects people’s physical and mental health, exacerbating current health conditions, stopping some people from doing routine activities and even contributing to more than 9,000 deaths in the capital a year.

“We are working closely with the City of London Corporation and Lord Tope to lobby government for amendments to the Environment Bill. This includes asking for local authorities to receive additional powers to designate ‘Air Quality Improvement Areas’ and enforce vital measures to ensure major improvement at a local level in areas with the poorest air quality. The current legislation is complicated, difficult to enforce and not tough enough to tackle London’s air quality challenge.

“We encourage government to put local government at the heart of delivering on this issue which affects so many Londoners across the capital. We cannot delay in taking serious steps to tackle London’s toxic air pollution.”


Notes to editors


The City of London Corporation is the governing body of the Square Mile dedicated to a vibrant and thriving City, supporting a diverse and sustainable London within a globally-successful UK. www.cityoflondon.gov.uk


London Councils represents London’s 32 boroughs and the City of London Corporation. It is a cross-party organisation that works on behalf of all its member authorities regardless of political persuasion. More about London Councils here: www.londoncouncils.gov.uk


Baroness Jenny Jones of Moulscoomb has been a Green Party peer since 2013. Jenny has held several prominent political roles: Deputy Mayor of London, Deputy Chair of the London Assembly’s Police and Crime Committee, Green Councillor for Southwark Council and Chair of the Green Party of England and Wales. She served on the London Assembly from 2000-16 where she worked on air pollution. In the 2000 to 2008 London administration, under Ken Livingstone, she was the Mayor’s Green Transport Advisor, advising him on sustainable forms of transport. In 2004 she was named as one of 200 ‘women of achievement’ by Buckingham Palace.

Jenny was introduced to the House of Lords on 5th November 2013, having been elected to represent the Green Party there by Party members.


Clean Air in London (CAL) has campaigned since 2006 to achieve full compliance, urgently and sustainably, with World Health Organisation air quality guidelines throughout London and elsewhere. It wants local authorities to be given powers, match their proposed new responsibilities, to require zero or ultra low emissions from buildings and non-road mobile machinery that would decarbonise buildings and protect public health.