EA plans environmental campaign as London race for mayor intensifies

The Environment Agency plans to publish details of its consultation on London's environment in early February, in time for mayoral candidates to incorporate its points into their campaign manifestos.

Since publication of its Greenprint for London in July the Environment Agency’s Thames division has been meeting with everyone from the Highways Agency to the CBI in its efforts to ensure that environmental concerns become central to strategies adopted by the future mayor and the Greater London Assembly (GLA).

“The three pieces of the jigsaw – economic, social and environmental issues – all need to be considered, but we want to make sure that the environment isn’t forgotten,” Deborah Leith of the EA told edie.

“Some of the issues facing London are very, very difficult and we want to make sure that the mayor gets the best possible environmental advice,” says Leith. Of course, the EA will retain its statutory duties after the official creation of the GLA, but the Agency is keenly aware that its remit is not all encompassing. Its breakfast meetings with stakeholders and bodies that will be subsumed under the GLA are being used to raise the profile of London’s environmental issues.

Greenprint for London identifies 10 environmental goals for the capital, which will be revised and finetuned in February when the results of its consultation are published. The preliminary priorities are:

  • improve London’s air quality – with the goal of achieving recommended standards at all times
  • manage the water resources that supply London – by reducing leakage and managing demand
  • reduce, recover and recycle London’s waste
  • continue to improve the water quality of London’s rivers – by achieving the specific targets outlined in Local Environment Agency Plans
  • protect London from flooding
  • safely remediate contaminated land – to achieve the target of 60% of new development on brownfield sites
  • protect property from rising groundwater – through the GARDIT strategy (see related story)
  • protect and improve London’s wildlife habitats and biodiversity – to achieve National Biodiversity Action Plan targets and improve river corridors through river restoration and deculverting
  • promote sustainable riverside development
  • create open spaces – to ensure that every person in London is no more than 10 minutes from a green open space

Leith acknowledges that many Londoners may be surprised by one or two of the EA’s priorities, particularly the need for flood protection. “Yes, we have a fantastic Thames Barrier, but we have other rivers in London that are prone to flooding,” says Leith. The River Quaggy that runs through Lewisham is an example. It flooded in the 1960s. Leith says that many of London’s rivers have been culverted, reducing their capacity and making them invisible to residents.

On the issue of building development, Leith hopes the mayor will lead the way for boroughs to raise environmental standards in planning decisions. “It’s true that planning permission will remain with the boroughs, but what the mayor will be able to do in terms of spatial development is to highlight areas and issues that are important and in need of change,” says Leith.

Overall, what the EA wants is to become the mayor’s first port of call for advice on any and all environmental considerations.

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