Most ice cream vans run on diesel fuel, releasing high levels of black carbon, a substance which scientists claim can stunt the growth of children’s lungs and trigger asthma attacks. Vans are kept running whilst serving ice cream in order to power on-board freezers and whippy machines.
Camden council said it was set to install ‘no ice cream trading’ signs on 40 streets, along with an increase in enforcement officer petrols and fines issued. Westminster council said it was to ban ice cream vans from trading near schools in the area.
A Westminster City Council spokesman, said: “Idling ice cream vans pump out harmful chemicals like NO2 [nitrogen dioxide] and black carbon which is why the council is introducing measures to reduce and remove this traffic around schools and other public spaces.”
Ice cream vans operating in central London will also be affected by the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which came into operation on 8 April, charging high polluting vehicles £100 per day. The vans are however exempt from vehicle idling regulations due to the need to power on-board equipment.
According to the London Local Authorities Act, ice cream vans can trade in an area for up to 15 minutes, however they must not return to the same area again that day. Camden council said it was trialling “the development of five areas where the borough will experiment with ice cream trading permitted so long as [vans] operate with their engines switched off”.
Richmond and Tower Hamlets councils also say they are considering introducing tougher legislation on ice cream vans, with Islington council already operating an ice cream trading ban near Highbury Fields, which has been in place for six years.
Councils say they are looking at the introduction of electricity power points in parks and markets, so that ice cream vans can trade with their engines switched off.
Green Party London Assembly member Caroline Russell, said: “No one wants to be the fun police or see people lose their businesses.
“But people don’t want a side order of asthma with their ice cream. This is a serious health issue. The ULEZ charge has helped but we can’t have a situation where you can pay to pollute. The roaming vans that trade in different streets every day, those will disappear over the next few years.”