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With news on: Hackney air quality monitoring results; London electric city report; Oxford low emission zone, and; air quality project funding.

‘Worrying’ results from Hackney air monitoring

Results from recent ‘citizen-science’ air quality monitoring in the London borough of Hackney published this week (December 8) found that 26 of the 55 locations tested breached legal limits and World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines for nitrogen dioxide air pollution.

I Like Clean Air map showing NO2 results from its monitoring sites (click to enlarge)

I Like Clean Air map showing NO2 results from its monitoring sites (click to enlarge)

Hackney-based campaign group I Like Clean Air worked with environmental NGO ClientEarth to measure NO2 levels in playgrounds and streets in South Hackney in October 2014.

55 diffusion tubes to monitor nitrogen dioxide were put up for four weeks across the borough, which is the only inner London borough without a tube station — although there are two overground train stations — meaning residents in the area are more dependent on buses.

I Like Clean Air claims that buses in Hackney Central Area produce 64% of the nitrous oxides in the air, and the group is campaigning for the likes of cleaner buses, ‘green walls’ and cycling infrastructure to try and combat the problem.

According to I Like Clean Air, 26 of 55 monitoring locations breached annual average limits of 40 microgrammes per cubic metre — “most” of which were at least 25% over, with the monitoring tube outside Hackney Town Hall 157% over the limit.

The campaign group said: “Due to the worrying results of our pollution monitoring we are now looking to expand to six new schools and nurseries in South Hackney and re-run the pollution monitoring at those schools in the new year.”

Report highlights air quality benefits of all-electric London

London’s air and noise pollution could be cut ‘significantly’ by switching to only electric-powered transport and heating in the city, according to a report by consultancy WSP.

Published on December 1 2014, the report — ‘Powering ahead — fast track to an all-electric city’ — follows a WSP and COmRes poll showing that a quarter of Londoners had ‘seriously contemplated’ leaving the city due to air and noise pollution.

The poll found that air quality was also the highest concern of Londoners after crime and the cost of living.

The firm makes several recommendations which it says would cut air pollution in the capital by a third and carbon emissions by 80% by 2035, including:

  • All new houses and offices to be built to use electric heating from 2018.
  • Replace all gas boilers at the end of their life with heat pumps.
  • Raise skill levels across the city so plumbers, electricians and architects have the skills needed to make the transformation to all electric.
  • Create a London-wide electric vehicle hire scheme.
  • Create a London-wide ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ).

WSP associate Barny Evans said: “Many of the plans needed have begun – including measures to encourage energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. However, we are actually moving away from electric heating in some instances. We are missing an overall vision and clarity of purpose. If London and other cities committed to becoming all-electric by 2035 that would provide the direction to significantly improve our quality of life. We’ve got twenty years to make this a reality.”

Oxford MP praises impact of low emission zone

Labour MP for Oxford East, Andrew Smith, has welcomed the news that Oxford’s recently introduced low emission zone (LEZ) in the centre of the city is having a “significant effect” on nitrogen dioxide levels.

The LEZ was introduced in January 2014, after which early results of monitoring suggest that there have been no breached of the hourly mean for NO2 this year, in contrast to 10 breaches in 2013 and 60 in 2012 (see story).

In addition, measurements of the annual mean nitrogen dioxide levels on the roads with historically high levels of nitrogen dioxide – High Street and St Aldate’s Street – have also fallen this year.

Mr Smith MP said he “welcomed the improvement of our air quality in Oxford” as a result of the LEZ, but said that “more work must be done to improve air quality nationally”, adding that he is “pressing the government to develop a national framework to help local authorities follow Oxford’s lead.”

He added: “Unfortunately, the environment secretary is not giving this matter the priority that it deserves. In a reply to my written parliamentary question asking for a timetable for putting together an action plan to improve air quality, I was told that the earliest date would be December 2015.

“I have written to the Environment Secretary to make plain that it is unacceptable to leave each local authority making its own way, at different speeds, when a national framework could help to tackle our poor air quality more quickly and in a coordinated way.”

Air quality project funding deadline approaches

A funding scheme enabling up to four communities in London to undertake air quality mapping projects closes for applications on Monday (December 15).

Social enterprise Mapping for Change has £1,000 available to cover the costs of purchasing diffusion tubes for monitoring nitrogen dioxide, laboratory analysis and map creation — the results of which it says will help “create a clearer picture of air quality at a very local level”.

Based at University College London (UCL), Mapping for Change hopes the information gathered will help raise awareness of air pollution and affect change in the community.

Volunteer teams would include around six or more volunteers. Collection of samples would take place in February 2015 with analysis carried out in March before results are published in April.

To apply to take part in the scheme, visit the Mapping for Change website.


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