London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Sam Bird team up to tackle air pollution in the capital

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Formula E racer Sam Bird visited a Newham school in East London to throw their weight behind the fight for clean air in the capital, ahead of the ABB FIA Formula E Championship coming to London on July 25 and 26. 

Just days after the showdown in Santiago, Salisbury Primary School welcomed the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and Envision Virgin Racing driver Sam Bird, accompanied by the Formula E Gen2 race car. 

The school is one of 200 London schools located in areas of high air pollution putting in place measures to protect pupils from toxic air following an air quality audit by the Mayor.

Pupils were given the chance to see the car up close as well as hear from Londoner Bird – winner of nine E-Prix during his Formula E career – about how the ABB FIA Formula E Championship is helping to innovate electric vehicle technology and support London’s electric vehicle revolution.

The series will be coming to London for the season finale at ExCeL London in the borough of Newham on the 25th & 26th of July, which will see the series use a world’s first indoor/outdoor circuit. Bird highlighted the importance to Formula E of being a catalyst for change, addressing air pollution and helping to create a cleaner future, faster.

“It’s been great to visit Salisbury Primary School today with the Mayor of London to raise awareness of both the championship and the future of electric vehicles,” said Bird. 

“As a leading Formula E team, we’re working hard to engage with those affected worst by pollution – particularly in the cities we race in – with our initiative the ‘Race Against Climate Change’.

“It was really inspiring to see that this topic is so important to the next generation too, with the children of Salisbury Primary working hard to make a change for the better.”

Five of London’s most polluted boroughs – Newham, Islington, Southwark, Westminster and Brent – have committed to extend the Mayor’s air quality audit programme to help cut pollution in their schools. 

Under the Mayor’s scheme, detailed air quality audits were carried out in 50 schools across 23 London boroughs. The audits assessed the air quality in some of the capital’s worst polluted schools and made a series of recommendations to protect pupils. As part of the programme, the Mayor issued a £1 million fund which provided each of the 50 audited schools with a £10,000 starter grant and enabled any of the other London schools located in areas exceeding legal air pollution limits to apply for green infrastructure funding. 

“London’s toxic air is directly harming the health of our children,” said Khan. “Working with boroughs like Newham we are determined to do everything in our power to protect them and ensure future generations breathe cleaner, healthier air.” 

Salisbury Primary School received £10,000 of the Mayor’s £1 million improvement fund following their audit in 2018. With additional funding from Newham Council, the school has relocated their Day Care Centre playground away from busy Romford Road, reducing the children’s exposure to harmful emissions.

“It’s wonderful to see Salisbury Primary School leading the way and transforming their environment into a safe, clean space for everyone,” added Khan. I’m delighted that other boroughs will be following their lead in expanding our innovative air quality audits to all state-run schools.

“As Mayor, I’ve moved as fast as I can in London to implement the most ambitious plans to tackle air pollution of any major city in the world. 

“This includes implementing the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone, which has already reduced harmful nitrogen dioxide pollution by almost a third in central London zone. 

“Government must follow London’s lead and help clean up filthy air across the country. A key part of this is legally binding targets in the upcoming Environment Bill to meet World Health Organization air quality guidelines by 2030.”

In response to the battle for lean air, Newham council is now extending air quality audits to all primary and secondary schools in the borough as part of a long-term air quality monitoring study. The monitoring will help target clean air initiatives which currently includes a ‘Healthy School Streets’ programme and ‘anti-idling’ campaigns – both supported by the Mayor.

“For many years we have been very concerned over the impact of traffic pollution on the health of our children as their playground adjoined a very busy road,” said Salisbury Primary School Headteacher Andrea Choppy.

“Our Junior Travel Ambassadors (JTA) and our school council children have worked very hard towards campaigning for better air quality around our school. 

“They were delighted when our school was highlighted as one that would be receiving the start-up funding from the Mayor’s Air Quality Audit Programme. 

“This along with match funding from Newham Authority and further funding from the Local Authority, enabled us to install green screening on our main fence, redesign the playground and implement the changes that we have today. 

“Our JTA’s are still campaigning against idling cars on busy roads that are adjacent to our school and welcome the opportunity of working further with the Local Authority to perhaps implement a ‘Red Zone’ around our school.”

Salisbury Primary School will also benefit from tough new Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standards introduced across London for heavy vehicles in just nine months (26 October 2020). The LEZ was set up to encourage the most polluting heavy diesel vehicles driving in the Capital to become cleaner. As a result of these measures and the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone up to the North and South circular roads in 2021, we expect reductions in toxic road transport nitrogen oxide emissions of around 30 per cent across London in 2021.