Friends of the Earth say Sutton council has missed out on funds to tackle pollution
Sutton Council missed out on support and funding to target the "hidden killer" of air pollution by not joining the rest of London in declaring the whole borough an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), according to environmental campaigners.
At the Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee on January 17, Friends of the Earth expressed "surprise" that Sutton had not made the declaration earlier, considering Sutton is London's first sustainable transport borough and has a good record on the environment.
An AQMA is an area where pollution levels have not met or are not expected to meet Government standards, and so a plan of action must be drawn up to tackle it.
Sutton created five AQMA's in 2000 near roads where levels breach air quality standards for nitrogen dioxide. But the council is one of the last borough's in London to declare the whole borough a AQMA.
Jenny Bates from Friends of the Earth said that without a borough wide AQMA, the council has missed out on help from outside the borough.
She said: "Without one, pollution would not get the attention and funding it needs."
She said a whole borough AQMA was "absolutely key" and Mrs Bates said she was "really surprised" at Sutton Council.
She said: "In Sutton there is BioRegional, BedZed and you also have One Planet Sutton so it is surprising. Air pollution is the second biggest cause of premature death in London behind smoking."
Sources say that politics can sometimes get in the way of declaring whole boroughs AQMA's as politicians fear the borough will be seen as polluted.
A council report ahead of last Thursday's (January 17) Environment and Neighbourhoods Committee meeting, outlined how declaring the whole borough an AQMA "reduces the possibility of reputation risks arising from the council being seen to take insufficient action concerning air pollution."
Campaign group Clean Air London said in November that Sutton, along with five other boroughs in London should "consider urgently declaring new AQMAs or extending existing ones."
Sutton Council did not comment on whether it could have missed out on funding or support as a result of not having a borough-wide AQMA.
Councillor Jill Whitehead, chairwoman of the environment and neighbourhood committee said: "Sutton was one of the first London boroughs to declare Air Quality Management Areas back in 2000 following a review which identified certain areas of the borough, mainly adjacent to the main roads, which were unlikely to meet national air quality standards.
This was the recommended approach at that time in line with legislation. "It is accepted that air quality is a borough wide issue and not just restricted to AQMAs which has been reflected in our action plan for many years."