Epping environmental advisory group outlines air pollution plans

Free parking for electric cars and installing charging points in lampposts are among strategy suggestions made by Epping Forest District Council’s new environmental advisory group this week.

Rapid charging points are being planned throughout the district, with Oakwood East car park, Oakwood Hill, anticipated as the first site to have them installed.

Updating the cabinet, Conservative deputy leader and planning and sustainability portfolio holder Cllr Nigel Bedford, said the Portfolio Advisory Group on the Air Pollution Mitigation Strategy (PAG) had already made significant progress in generating ideas for consideration by the council.

He said: “We’re pushing those ideas and every little bit of change will make a difference in the end.”

The council hopes to finish installing rapid charging points in time for the extension of the London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) this October, so electric vehicles in London can recharge close to the city.

Cllr Bedford also recognised the need to work alongside local businesses, particularly black cab drivers, in encouraging a widespread transition to low emission vehicles.

He continued: “Our initial focus for supporting local business is with the local black cab operators who are based in the district and to support the take up of electric vehicles, recognising that many are operating in the area that will be covered by the London Ultra Low Emission Zone extension.”

Welcoming the proposals, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) Steve McNamara qualified, despite all new taxis licensed in London since 2018 being zero emission capable (ZEC), drivers are unlikely to be able to purchase new electric vehicles, which cost roughly £65,000, without help from local authorities.

He said: “We would also like to see investment in dedicated taxi-only charging points and charging hubs.

“Such points also need to be installed in convenient locations close to key arterial routes to ensure that they are readily accessible.

“Provision of charging points for those without off-street parking must also be prioritised and in this regard we welcome EFDC’s focus on lamppost charging points.

“In the wake of the coronavirus restrictions, which resulted in a catastrophic drop in passenger demand, few drivers are currently in a position to purchase a new ZEC vehicle and individual drivers and fleet operators are also struggling to access finance to purchase these vehicles – even if they had been approved prior to the pandemic.”

The PAG additionally suggested adjusting the main highway junctions to reduce pollution in the district, as well as reducing visitor parking and building cycling and walking infrastructure, for example along the Epping side of the Wake’s Arms roundabout.

However, despite being represented on the group, the Loughton Residents Association expressed their criticism of the pollution mitigation strategy the PAG advises.

Cllr Chris Pond said: “I do not consider this strategy adequate, because I believe it does not address the requirement in the Holohan judgement that “projects” (including residential and other development) should not adversely affect the wellbeing of the Special Area of Conservation.

“Epping Forest is already in an unfavourable state of conservation through air pollution.

“Short of draconian measures like a charged-for zone to drive through the forest, which I oppose, development at the level envisaged simply cannot be permitted.”

Council leader Cllr Chris Whitbread said the strategy is “going to be an ongoing project.”

“This is not about politics, it’s about doing the right thing for our localities.”

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Charlie Ridler

Local Democracy Reporter