For Boris it’s clean air tomorrow – but not today

In August London Mayor Boris Johnson approved the development of a massive cruise ship terminal at Greenwich claiming its effect on air pollution would be minimal. A month later he admitted it in fact the effect would be substantial, but hey, let’s not worry about it.

Speaking at City Hall, the mayor said: “One of the great delusions is that river traffic is in some way more environmentally friendly than others and it simply isn’t. They use colossal diesel engines and will be unquestionably adding to NOx (Nitrogen Oxide) and other pollution”.

So why did you say the opposite when you granted planning permission a few weeks ago?

The Green Party’s Baroness Jones, London Assembly member, was in favour of scrapping the scheme altogether. She told the mayor: “The Greater London Authority has played down all the pollution fears, possibly having been misled by the developers. You have allowed the GLA to support this thing. Could you just not have just turned it down?”

Good question. So what is the answer? Well, as usual when Mr Johnson is concerned, there are several.

“Local people are broadly supportive”, he stated. Er, no.  In fact there were 117 letters of objections, hundreds of names on a petition and only three letters in favour. He also mentioned the (notional) loss of revenue and jobs, which the developer admitted would be only 80. The rest was Boris Bluster.

The actual air pollution, in an area already known for its poor air quality, would be the equivalent of 688 HGVs parked with their engines running. There is a much cleaner option: onshore electricity could be supplied to the berthed ships. But the developers insist that would not be viable (which means more expensive) and Boris accepted their word with no comparative evidence requested or supplied.

Yesterday it was revealed that Green issues will be a vital battleground in London’s mayoral race with Seven in 10 Londoners in swing boroughs saying they would support a candidate who was convincing on air pollution.  Over 70 per cent of Tory voter said air pollution and climate change were now among their biggest concerns and almost four in five in the survey of 2,000 Londoners did not think politicians are doing enough to protect the environment. They could say that again – and hopefully will. The candidates are all promising jam tomorrow, but tomorrow is still over seven months away.

VolkWagen (VW) having making headlines for weeks now because of their rigging of emissions testing equipment in millions of cars and will hopefully paying very high price for it. The cruise ship terminal developers appear to have rigged the air quality impact of their scheme more effectively and, with the mayor’s support, are getting away with it.


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