UCL News


Mayor launches T-charge for "dirtiest" polluting vehicles during UCL nursery visit

23 October 2017

Sadiq Khan, London's Mayor, marked the start of his T-charge on vehicles to combat city pollution by visiting UCL's nursery in Bloomsbury.

Sadiq UCL Nursery

The Mayor targeted the central London nursery as one of the hundreds of schools that he believes will benefit from cleaner air as a result of the charge, introduced today with drivers of older, dirtier vehicles required to pay £10 a day on top of the standard £11.50 congestion charge.

The T-charge (T stands for Toxic) is already thought to have had an effect. Analysis from Transport for London found the number of older cars clocked by cameras entering the city centre had dropped by a third since February when the reforms were announced.

An estimated 6,500 cars a day are now expected to pay the charge, down from 10,000 at the start of the year. Of the 6,500 pre-2006 cars that are not up to the required Euro 4 standard, 22% use petrol and 78% diesel.

Mr Khan believes thousands of Londoners die prematurely each year as a result of long-term exposure to air pollution and more than 400 schools in the capital are in areas exceeding legal air quality levels.

According to a report in the Lancet last week, about 8% or 50,000 deaths in the UK were linked to pollution in 2015. In London, it is estimated 7.9m people - 95% of the population - live in areas exceeding the World Health Organisation's guidelines on toxic air quality particles.

Mr Khan claimed London now had the toughest emission standard in the world and that it would have a big impact on air quality: "The shameful scale of the public health crisis London faces, with thousands of premature deaths caused by air pollution, must be addressed."

Along with the introduction of cleaner buses, he said the T-charge was a "milestone" in progress to an ultra-low emission zone in London that could be introduced as early as 2019 with the aim of reducing NOX emissions from vehicles by 50%.

Asked on the BBC if he would seek to ban vehicles entirely from parts of London - as Oxford was considering, he said the priority was instead to get rid of the most polluting vehicles, adding: "I want action now."

He also repeated his call for the government to implement a "dirty" diesel scrappage scheme where vehicle owners in London could claim between £1,000 and £3,500 compensation to help pay for them to buy a cleaner car, van, minibus or taxi. This, he claims, could take more than 130,000 "dirty" diesel or petrol vehicles off the road.

Richard Jackson, Director of Sustainability for UCL Estates, welcomed the move: "We believe the T Charge could be a significant move in helping to improve the air quality in London. This supports our own commitment to improve air quality and safeguard our UCL and wider London community."

Mr Khan spent almost an hour at UCL nursery, which is based on two sites in Gordon Square and have been rated good and outstanding by Ofsted. He met Kate Burtenshaw, UCL Nursery Manager, Dr Celia Caulcott, Vice Provost for Enterprise and London, Mr Jackson, nursery staff members and the children.

Dr Caulcott said: "UCL is very conscious that the quality of air is a challenge. We are keen to do our part to develop a process where we have cleaner air. We support actions that will improve air quality for staff, students and their families and for Londoners as a whole."

UCL's nursery staff closely follow news and weather reports on air quality to minimise children's exposure to high levels of pollution, has introduced "healthy" planting and active spaces for the children and is working to introduce air quality monitoring systems.

UCL is also closely involved in research to combat pollution and, as an employer, seeking to reduce its carbon footprint. "UCL is committed to helping to tackle air pollution and to create an environment for London in which children, students and staff breathe cleaner, healthier air," said Mr Jackson. "As a London-based university with a successful, popular nursery, we share the concern and attention he is giving this issue.

"As a university, our scientists and researchers are already making an impact through Mapping for Change programme, enabling London's communities to understand, monitor and respond to air quality in their local environment. UCL academics are exploring ways of encouraging sustainable transport and how we can best design our roads and streets to reduce air pollution. And we're well underway with a major programme to redevelop and refurbish our heritage buildings with long term carbon-reduction in mind.

"We are keen to play our part in cleaning up London's air. As a major employer and academic community, UCL is committed to reducing emissions from its operations including specific initiatives to directly reduce traffic on and around campus and encourage staff and students to walk or cycle. We are well placed to encourage wider adoption of sustainable transport and are working with partners to help develop policies and promote innovation in tackling air pollution."

UCL Nursery cares for up to 67 children of staff and students between three months and five years old. It offers a Forest Schools learning environment, providing care, play and learning that is grounded in outside play, nature and the environment.

UCL and the UCL Nursery is located in central London, within the zone that this policy will impact. UCL takes air pollution and the concerns of parents and children seriously. We follow news reporting and weather reports covering air quality closely to help us guide the activities of the children we care for.

UCL's Policy on Pollution at Nursery: Throughout the Nursery, we have introduced high quality, active spaces such as our sensory/physical room and planting that helps create healthy spaces for the children.

We are also working to introduce air quality monitoring systems at our sites, and using this to guide local logistics. We are keen to see improvements in our local environment and will await the outcome of the Mayor's new policy. We want to ensure that children can enjoy outdoor spaces, both within our site and at the neighbouring Gordon Square.

On defined high pollution days, which are admittedly not common, we make an assessment in every individual instance of how best to manage the children's day. A range of factors affect this such as weather conditions, other planned activities etc and we assess every factor in determining what action is taken and what the best scenario is for the children. We do not have a defined anti-pollution room.