Activists say they will go to prison if pollution demands not met
Councillor says 'it's bloody stupid' and insists Westminster is doing 'all that we can'
03 November, 2017 — By William McLennan
Stop Killing Londoners protest in Marylebone Road
ENVIRONMENTAL activists who closed down Marylebone Road in a protest over air quality have vowed to keep coming back until their demands are met – or they are sent to prison.
The protesters sat down in the middle of one of London’s busiest roads during rush-hour and unfurled a banner that warned: “Pollution kills 9,000 Londoners per year.”
Roger Hallam, who organised the action as part of the group Stop Killing Londoners, said the impact of air pollution on children is “scandalous”.
He added: “It’s condemning thousands of children to sub-optimal health for their whole lives.”
Conservative councillor Daniel Astaire said that Westminster Council were “doing all that we can” to improve air quality, but insisted the nature of the protest outside Baker Street station on Tuesday night was “bloody stupid”.
He said: “Air pollution and air quality is a major issue for the leader and our current administration.” Protesters chose Marylebone Road as a target due to its unenviable claim of being one of the capital’s most polluted roads. Recorded levels of pollutants on the road regularly breach EU regulations.
Mr Hallam said activists would continue to stage demonstrations until they are granted a meeting with London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
He added: “Sadiq is making lots of nice noises, but he’s not doing anything. The T-charge is a classic example, it’s just a PR exercise. No one is going to not go to central London just because they have to pay £10.”
The so-called “toxicity charge” was introduced last week, with drivers of older, more polluting vehicles charged an additional £10 on top of the congestion charge of £11.50.
Seven people were arrested at a protest organised by the group at Tower Bridge on Monday, before being bailed under strict conditions not to join demonstrations.
Mr Hallam said: “We are carrying on until we get a meeting with [Sadiq]. We will be getting arrested every day. There is a strong possibility we will be sent to prison on remand, because we are breaking our bail. If that happens we’ll be the first people imprisoned for protesting air pollution.”
Mr Khan said he was “determined to take urgent action to help clean up London’s lethal air,” adding that the T- charge “marks a major milestone in this journey… to encourage motorists to ditch polluting, harmful vehicles”. He said London now had “the world’s toughest emission standard”.
Cllr Astaire said: “At Westminster we are doing a significant amount to deal with air pollution and air quality and it’s one of the things that we recognise as a significant issue that we will be addressing with our electorate.
“We have the ‘don’t be idle’ campaign going on and we have the Marylebone low-emissions zone. The results of that will be considered by the relevant cabinet member to see how that works and what it’s achieved and what we can learn from it.
“Air pollution and air quality is a major issue for the leader and our current administration. Within the arena of the powers that we have got, the power to influence as well, we are doing all that we can. We have increased the parking charges for diesel vehicles to dissuade them from coming into that part of town. We will continue to do what we can.”
A City Hall spokesman said that the Mayor was already committed to carrying out many of the group’s demands, including expanding the “ultra low emission zone” to cover the north and south circular roads. They said officers will meet members of the group next week.