London Developers Ordered to Do Their Bit in Fighting Pollution

While London already has its ULEZ or Ultra-Low Emission Zones and the entire UK has CAZs or Clean Air Zones, a lot of work is still needed to improve the quality of air in London. Recently, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, encouraged developers in the city to take part in the fight against pollution through the new AQP – Air Quality Positive guidance.

The AQP guidance makes it an obligation for London developers to think of air quality impact at every stage of their design process. It is intended particularly for large-scale projects in the city. They are also required to share and demonstrate design features that will be incorporated into their projects to minimise air pollution exposure.

London’s AQP guidance is for developers, air quality experts, planners, and architects. It encourages them to apply the features during the earliest phase of the design process instead of developing solutions for air pollution increase after the design and development are completed.

Mayor Sadiq also introduced the AQN or Air Quality Neutral guidance, which serves as a guide so developers won’t go over mandated air pollution benchmarks. These benchmarks are expected to prevent developers and property owners from heating systems that use solid fuels or wood.

The AQN benchmarks are already at work at the Wembley Park Gardens, a development under TfL or Transport for London. Air quality in the area is expected to improve through sustainable transport and features, including electric vehicle (EV) charging, air source heat pumps for electric heating systems, and the use of solar panels. Landscaping has also become wildlife-friendly while trees continue to be planted around and building roofs are now biodiverse.

Almost 80% of the carbon emissions in London are from buildings. These structures are also responsible for releasing significant amounts of dangerous pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen dioxide, both with adverse health impacts on Londoners. With the Mayor of London’s 2021 London Plan, however, hopes are high that the agenda and policies will be a big help in transforming the city into a healthier and greener one for its residents.

Mayor Sadiq’s ULEZ has reportedly reduced central London air pollution from road transport by around 44%. Carbon emissions have also dropped by at least 6%. The Mayor believes it is about time to also focus on new developments and how developers can help reduce toxic air levels in the city.

TTL Properties (a TfL commercial property company) and residential developer Barratt East London are working alongside the Mayor in transforming London into a better and greener environment.

What are emissions and why can they be dangerous?

Emissions, particularly vehicle emissions, are substances that are released from cars due to internal combustion. These gases are poisonous and when emitted into the atmosphere, atmospheric temperature will increase and they can also damage the ozone layer. Emissions are pollutants that contribute to global warming. Vehicle emissions negatively impact a person’s health.

Air pollutants typically emitted by vehicles (specifically diesel) include:

  • Particulate matter (PM)
  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Volatile organic compounds (VOC)
  • Carbon dioxide (CO2)
  • Nitrogen oxide (NOx)

Although all five are dangerous for humans and the environment (especially when they react with each other), NOx emissions have become more popular over the years because of the Dieselgate diesel emissions scandal that involved the Volkswagen Group.

What happened during the diesel emissions scandal?

The Volkswagen Group caught the attention of US authorities in September 2015 after defeat devices were allegedly discovered in thousands of VW and Audi diesel vehicles in the American automobile market. A defeat device is used to cheat on emissions tests. It makes vehicles act differently during testing compared to when driven on real roads. It produces deceptive results so vehicles can pass emissions compliance testing.

When a defeat device senses that a vehicle is being tested, it temporarily reduces emissions to levels that are within the World Health Organization (WHO) limits. While the vehicle appears clean and safe to regulators, this is only true during the entirety of the tests. Once the vehicle is used outside laboratory conditions, it reverts to emitting unlawful volumes of NOx.

Volkswagen deceived their customers into buying high-polluting vehicles for a premium price. They also exposed drivers to life-threatening NOx emissions, which can cause serious health impacts such as chronic lung function reduction, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses. Some cases also lead to premature death. In London alone, around 4,000 people die due to air pollution annually.

Exposure to NOx emissions is also the leading cause of asthma in children and dementia (Alzheimer’s disease) among the elderly.

Authorities believe that the Volkswagen Group and other manufacturers allegedly involved in the scandal, including Mercedes-Benz, Vauxhall, and BMW – should be held responsible for the adverse effects of the defeat devices on the environment and humans. Affected drivers are urged to do their part in the fight against pollution by filing a diesel claim against their carmakers.

I have a BMW, should I file my diesel claim?

If you have a BMW and want to help improve air quality, your first step should be to go to to check if you are eligible to file a claim. You will find all the information you need from them. After verification, you can start working with an emissions expert in bringing your diesel claim to court.

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