ULEZ protestors storm Havering Council meeting

Anti-ULEZ protestors brought a Havering Council meeting to a halt on Wednesday evening (March 22).

At least 70 protestors opposed to the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) gathered outside the town hall in Romford prior to the meeting with megaphones, drums and banners.

They came with a 3,200-signature petition urging the council to meet with campaigners and take legal action “against Sadiq Khan”, which was handed to the council’s Mayor by Conservative Judith Holt.

Events then took a turn after the mayor asked Cllr Holt to shorten her speech on the petition, causing protestors to storm out of the meeting calling for the council to “bring back democracy”, before a larger group tried to re-enter forcefully.

A video posted on YouTube later that night appears to show the group – which included Piers Corbyn – walking into the town hall unobstructed by security who had guarded the door earlier that evening.

However, council staff standing in the stairwell leading to the public gallery refused to allow the increasingly angry group into the council chamber to address the meeting.

One particularly vocal protestor verbally abused a council officer and shook the chamber door before shouting allegations of corruption into a megaphone.

The council’s chief executive Andrew Blake-Herbert and leader Ray Morgon then entered the stairwell to speak to the protestors, who left peacefully a few minutes later.

A Havering Council spokesperson said: “ULEZ is a very emotive subject and we know some people are very angry and upset about this being brought in by the Mayor of London.

“The leader has, however, set out very clearly the council’s position on this.

“It is everyone’s right to be able to carry out peaceful protest, but what we do not agree with is people being disruptive to get their point across.

“Sadly this was the case last night and they had to be ejected from the Town Hall, so that the scheduled business could continue.”

Cllr Morgon, who objected to the new charge last summer, has called on the Mayor of London to “pause” his plans until 2026 so residents have more time to prepare.

But he argues a legal challenge is not a “prudent use of taxpayer’s money” for his cash-strapped council as it has a “low at best” chance of success.

Before the meeting began, anti-ULEZ campaigner Michelle Amato, 58, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service she opposed the new charge as it would take away people’s freedoms.

She added: “Everyone wants clean air but Havering has got clean air. I can’t walk or cycle, there are no cycle lanes where I live.

“Care workers on £9.50, are they going to spend £12.50 per day? No.”

She argued that care workers travelling into the borough from Essex might change jobs to avoid the charge, putting additional financial pressure on care homes in the borough.

Gina Quarmby, a semi-retired Havering resident, said she attended the protest as she cannot afford to upgrade her car, which will be close to the ULEZ that is due to be introduced.

She added: “It’s not just that, it’s everything that bloke [Sadiq Khan] is trying to do, he’s trying to ruin London.”

Met Police officers are understood to have attended after the protestors left the building but had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

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Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter