Water for London's response to the draft London Food Strategy
5th July 2018
Dear Food Team at City Hall, and members of the London Food Board,
Thank you for the opportunity to feed back on the London Food Strategy.
The following is submitted on behalf of Water For London. A grassroots, non-profit organisation based in London (more info here: https://www.waterforlondon.org/)
Firstly we are encouraged by, and warmly support, the Mayor’s work in the last 12 month on drinking water fountains. In November last year, Water for London delivered a petition with over 16,000 signatures to City Hall, calling for water fountains and refill points across TfL stations.
Earlier this year the Mayor announced a very welcome pilot of 20 publicly-accessible drinking water fountains, and we hope that some will be in transport hubs.
In February, Network Rail announced that they would install drinking water fountains across their stations and unveiled their first in March, in Charing Cross Station. In just over two months, this fountain has helped to eliminate waste from an estimated 11,000 plastic bottles. An extraordinary achievement in such a short space of time and proof that water fountains are in demand, popular, and welcomed by commuters. Manchester Piccadilly’s fountain was opened on 4th May. Following in their stead, Greater Anglia has, in the last month, unveiled water fountains in Ipswich and Chelmsford railway stations.
The Mayor's Strategy
The London Food Strategy re-affirms the mayor’s commitment to roll out more publicly-accessible drinking water fountains by 2020. We warmly encourage the Mayor to include water fountains or refill points across the TfL network as a flagship part of this – they could be rolled out over time, (perhaps sector-by-sector?)
We believe that the time is absolutely perfect for this bold move from City Hall. You would be in great company and have a great deal of support. There are a number of reasons why we believe that water fountains in TfL stations is a particularly good idea as part of this London Food Strategy:
1. Water fountains would complement the TfL junk-food advert ban perfectly. Providing an easy, free alternative to sugary drinks and bottled water will help ensure the mayor is seen to ‘give something good’ to Londoners, not just ‘ban the bad’ – this positive action and messaging is very important in helping people to make healthy food choices and would help to truly make the TfL network spaces that promote healthy diets.
2. Drinking water should be a core part of any good food strategy, especially in a city with a chronic obesity problem. At the moment Londoners can, in most cases, get hold of a sugary drink easily and more cheaply than water. We are concerned that teenagers and young people in particular might be put off from entering a high street coffee shop to ask for a refill so we really need to make it easy, clear and understandable where it is possible to find drinking water. TfL stations are about the most familiar landmarks in London – everyone knows where they are - and we believe that they provide the perfect location for making water refill easy, familiar and understood.
3. It is perverse that commuters are recommend to carry water, but a free and environmentally-friendly opportunity to do this is not available. Recommending carrying water but not providing refill points is actually likely to drive demand for the purchase (and disposal) of single-use plastic bottles.
4. TfL stations perfectly meet the mayor’s ambitions for the location of water fountains (see p23): a)… “locations should include areas with high levels of pedestrian activity”… TfL fits the bill perfectly - the tube alone handles 5 million passenger journeys per day b) “The ongoing management and maintenance of facilities should be secured and agreed at planning stage” Again Tfl Is the perfect vehicle because City Hall has overall control over TfL. We believe that this is a great way to guarantee this project is sustainable over time; funding for maintenance is not guaranteed over the long term for third parties (even councils).
5. It would be disappointing to ‘pass the buck’ to councils on this issue instead of taking action where the mayor has the power to do so. We note page 23 “London boroughs should identify locations for free drinking water fountains during the local planning process”. This is an excellent suggestion in addition to the mayor’s own ambitions for water fountains, but shouldn’t be instead of the plans for further roll as described in the plan.
6. The concept of water fountains in transport stations has been proven effective and popular – they can, and have been installed quickly (note Network Rail announcing their plans in Feb and having the first up and running in March!), with minimal disruption. We also note other cities taking a lead now by installing fountains in their stations and it would be a great shame to see London fall behind. Most importantly, the unveiling of a new water fountain provides an absolutely great photo opportunity!
Transport For London has also received feedback from the following interest groups about water fountains, and would like to share these points:
- Pets (especially dogs) are vulnerable to dehydration in hot weather, and dog’s charities would support water provision for long journeys on the hot London Underground system.
- Vulnerable people, especially those with no fixed address: Some vulnerable people may be unlikely to feel comfortable a shop or café to refill. Londoners without access to piped water may need to fill a larger bottle and feel awkward and miss out, or be refused, and others may find the refill app inaccessible.
- Community Growing Spaces – a number of community groups have expressed an interest in creating small edible growing spaces near TfL stations – for example herb planters or climbing vegetable plants. A key barrier was the accessibility of water! A fountain could allow a volunteer to keep plants watered in hot weather
Thank you for taking the time to consider our response to the London Food Strategy. To reiterate, we are really encouraged by the Mayor’s work already on water fountains and are also really encouraged by this strategy because the Mayor is keen to be bold! We congratulate you on the proposal to ban junk food ads. Well done! We would be absolutely delighted to welcome and support a similarly ambitious plan for water fountains across TfL and would be delighted to discuss this further with the London Food Board.
With best Wishes,
Will Routh and the team at Water for London