Make ULEZ London-wide, says mother of girl who died from air pollution

Ella Kissi-Debrah
Ella Kissi-Debrah died aged nine in 2013. She lived close to the South Circular Road

The mother of a nine-year-old girl who died as a result of air pollution has called on Sadiq Khan to extend London’s ultra-low emission zone beyond the North and South Circular to cover all over the capital.

Ella Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who lived close to the South Circular Road in Catford, died in 2013. She became the first person in the UK to have air pollution listed as a cause of death following a court case in 2020.

Ella’s mother Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, who has tirelessly campaigned for improvements to air quality in London, was a guest speaker at a meeting of the London Assembly’s environment committee on Thursday.

Discussing the issue of increasing traffic and congestion in London, Ms Adoo-Kissi-Debrah said that “we have actually made this situation even worse”, adding: “Shame on us.”

She said: “As I walked [Ella’s] siblings to the cemetery we actually stopped for a moment and looked at the South Circular. This was at about 10 o’clock. It was absolutely gridlocked. Nothing was moving. When my daughter was alive it wasn’t even that bad, so things have got dramatically worse, and especially in the last two years.

“The only thing I said to them – and they looked at me with puppy eyes – is ‘you’re going to have to go back to court to make sure something is done about this’.”

She added that London mayor Sadiq Khan was part of the inquest into Ella’s death and was “well aware of what actually needs to be done”. “ULEZ being London-wide was something the experts actually recommended,” she said.

ULEZ sign on South Circular
Some parts of Greenwich and Lewisham are covered by the ULEZ – others are not

The Ultra-Low Emission Zone was expanded to cover the areas up to, but not including, the North and South Circular roads in October last year, leaving parts of Greenwich and Adoo-Kissi-Debrah’s home borough of Lewisham outside the cleaner-air zone.

Elliot Treharne, City Hall’s head of air quality, told the London Assembly that the expansion of the ULEZ has led to “benefits across London” in terms of improvements to air quality, but that “there is further action that is needed”.

Earlier this month, Sadiq Khan revealed plans to introduce a “clean air charge” that could see drivers pay up to £2 a day to drive a petrol or diesel car in London, as well as potential plans to expand the ULEZ to cover the entirety of Greater London.

The announcement came following research that showed car journeys in London needed to be reduced by 27 per cent by 2030 if the capital is to achieve net zero.

Yesterday, City Hall published figures from Imperial College London that showed that air pollution was falling more slowly in outer London than in central London, while outer London also had more deaths that could be attributed to poor air quality.

Sadiq Khan said that he was “not willing to put off action” to tackle air pollution despite it being “politically inconvenient”, and that he was “determined that we continue to be doers, not delayers”.

Campaigners, however, have called on Khan to scrap his Silvertown Tunnel road project, which they say will increase pollution and congestion in east and south east London.

The City Hall meeting came the day after the London Assembly called on Khan to reveal how much it would cost to cancel the tunnel, which would run from the Royal Docks to the Greenwich Peninsula.

Additional reporting by Darryl Chamberlain

LDRS logoJoe Talora is the Local Democracy Reporter for the Greater London Authority, based at the Evening Standard. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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