A protester against London's new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)
A protester against London's new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). AFP News/JUSTIN TALLIS

This week, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has called for an expansion of London's ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ). The government, however, initially denied the Mayor's request, with Rishi Sunak claiming that the expansion must be delayed due to the current cost of living crisis.

With Labour Leader Keir Starmer in full support, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told broadcasters: "I think people and families are struggling with the cost of living, that is obvious to everyone."

Today, 29 August 2023, Sadiq Khan has succeeded in expanding the ULEZ zone to reach Greater London, in an attempt to reduce air pollution in London even more so.

With immediate effect, Hillingdon, Harrow, Edgware, Hayes, Barnet, Croydon, Bexley and other areas are now considered part of the ULEZ catchment area.

It has been reported that the expansion of ULEZ will cost hard-working families a further £12.50 a day. It is also expected that more than 3.5 million people would live in the expanded area, and more than 100,000 drivers would be forced to pay an extra £4,500 a year if the larger ULEZ area is put in place.

The 2023 ULEZ expansion is expected to reduce carbon emissions in outer London by a further 27,000 tonnes.

In 2021, Sadiq Khan expanded ULEZ outwards from central London to include Greenwich, Haringey, and the North Circular.

To enter the ULEZ area, drivers must pay £12.50. The charge was initially put in place to improve the air quality in London, by reducing the number of vehicles in the capital that don't meet the low emission standards.

Sadiq Khan said that due to the lack of government funding, the ULEZ expansion was "difficult". Sadiq Khan also noted that the extension was necessary to tackle climate change and protect the lives of Londoners.

It has been proven that toxic air pollution leads to stunted lung growth in children, an increase in dementia and cancer, as well as nearly 4,000 premature deaths in London each year.

Today, the extension decision was met with protestors outside Downing Street who were seen to be vandalising ULEZ enforcement cameras.

Dozens of anti-ULEZ protestors take to Downing Street.

Some of the controversial cameras were spray painted, smashed or had the wires cut.

Dozens of protestors were seen carrying placards that read 'Stop the Toxic Air Lie', 'No 2 ULEZ' and 'ULEZ all about money'.

Another group of anti-ULEZ protestors were seen carrying a cardboard coffin with 'democracy' written on each side, with others wearing fake car registration plates that said 'get Khan out'.

The Metropolitan Police (MET) have recorded 164 stolen cameras and 185 damaged cameras as of August 1 – when the expansion discussions were being had between Sadiq Khan and the UK government.

Husband and wife Tom and Carolyn Dare were amongst the protesting crowd in central London today, in an attempt to stop the expansion.

Carolyn Dare told reporters at the scene that she wanted to persuade Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to "overrule Sadiq Khan".

"He has got the power. They can get rid of a Prime Minister, anytime they like," she said.

Carolyn Dare also felt the Conservatives were using the issue to fight Labour and to help them win the next election, but believes that "they are hurting a lot of people" in the process.

The elderly couple also expressed how the new charge will take a significant portion of their weekly pension, with Tom Dare claiming that the Mayor is "shutting down London basically".

Tom Dare further added: "A lot of people come to theatres of a night, but it's going to cost them more money to come to the theatre. Or if you want to pop out to meet family or relatives, it is going to cost you money, all the time. At our age, we can't afford to get a new loan to get a new car."

Recently, the huge number of drivers visiting the website met a message that read: "Our website is busier than usual. You are now in a queue, and your expected wait time is 4 minute(s). If you prefer not to wait, please try again later."

Those who refuse to pay the charge will receive a penalty charge notice of £180, reduced to £90 for early payment within 14 days. Drivers have until 12 a.m. to pay the ULEZ charge.