Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith visited the Tate and Lyle refinery in Silvertown this week where he heard why the company was campaigning for Brexit.

The refinery has seen hours cut and jobs cut because of the way the EU favours its own beet sugar producers. Tate refines cane sugar and tends to bring in the raw commodity from the Caribbean and places beyond the EU borders.

In 2017 the EU is looking to lift the production cap on beet farmers and compensate them for the subsequent price drop while cane sugar imports face hefty tariffs. Tate is lobbying hard to level the playing field but sees the Brexit vote as a short-cut to reform.

Zac said: “The rules need to be changed. They make no sense at all. This is a valuable business and a massive employer with a historic business and it needs to have a future.”

During a break in his visit, The Wharf sat down with Zac to survey the east London landscape and discuss his views on some key issues.

Silvertown Tunnel: yes or no

“The difference between west London and east London in terms of river crossings is like night and day so there are really strong arguments for improving the links and Silvertown is part of that.

“There are so many really strong arguments for doing it. If you’re a business on one side and you’ve got to get to customers on the other you’ve got to this extraordinary detour – contributing to air pollution and congestion.

“The other reason is that if we want to solve the housing crisis we need more transport links. You don’t unlock land without growing the transport network and river crossings are part of that .

Zac Goldsmith, centre, visits Tate and Lyle in Silvertown with senior vice president Gerald Mason, right, and Glenn Clarke, refinery manager

“I’m totally convinced it’s got to happen but we’ve got air pollution problems in London so we’ve got to use this new convenience in a way that encourages a more rapid shift to clean vehicles.

“When you’re bringing in something that so valuable, like a river crossing, it’s a powerful tool and you can create a really powerful incentive for people to make the right choices. You can slant the playing field in favour of low emission vehicles. Silvertown can be part of the solution and not the problem.

A package of river crossings

“I’m a localist so we need to talk to residents, local authorities and you’ve got to make sure you get it right but the principle is very clear. My starting point is clear support for Gallions, Belvedere and Silvertown. We’re talking about transport but the biggest challenge in London is housing and the two very much go hand in hand.”

Transport upgrades as an engine for regeneration

“Crossrail 2 will add 10% capacity which is a ‘getting around’ issue. With a growing population getting to work and getting home in time to say goodnight to the kids is essential. But it is also a regeneration issue.

“Crossrail 2 will enable us to build up to 200,000 homes. To make a political point, it is why my main opponent’s proposals to take £1.9billion out of the transport budget would be catastrophic. You take £1.9billion out of TfL’s budget you’re going to have to put a stop to most of the vital upgrades and extensions that London needs.”

London City Airport expansion

“[London City Airport] have got their politics wrong on this because it’s not really about expansion it’s about creating a slip road to allow aeroplanes to move around and the decision [following the planning appeal] has now been moved to the Secretary of State .

“Boris’s view was that he did not want to impose anything that would contribute to pollution or noise for a densely populated area and that is a position I agree with.City Airport are convinced this programme will not lead to more pollution and I said to them they need to prove that point. They say that if you set them a pollution and a noise test they will pass it. If they can prove that point I am with them.

The business of the river

“I don’t think we make enough of the river but we’ve seen progress. Crossrail 1 used sufficient use of the river to move freight and spoil to keep 250,000 trucks off the road and that’s just a glimpse of what we can do.

Tate & Lyle on the river at Silvertown

“We need to make more use of the river to move freight around, get trucks off the road but we should also think we should make use of the walks to make the make the River Thames environment more enjoyable. In a increasingly dense city to create those kind of spaces are very important.

Enderby Wharf

They need to find a way to do the on-shore power unit . If they do that then they resolve 90% of the issues that people are concerned about.

“We have a massive challenge on our hands with pollution in London. We have most of the tools and most of technology to deal with that issue. It doesn’t make sense to create structures that will make that job harder. [On-shore power] is not a new thing, it’s not revolutionary, they just need to find a way and build it in now rather than retro-fit 10 years down the line.

Air quality v growth

We want to London to boom and we want London to boom in a way that can solve environmental problems and not causing them. You don’t want to have a trade-off between quality of life and economic growth, you have to reconcile the two and Enderby Wharf is a classic case of where we can do that. Encourage that opportunity but it do it in a way that doesn’t contribute to air quality problems.