Campaigning against Polluted Streets | Samantha Heath

Increasingly more and more people are getting fired up about the pollution in our streets – and I am proud that my charity London sustainability exchange (LSx) has been able to support communities all over London by finding out where pollution is most concerning and helping them address the problem by working with local businesses and challenging their local politicians to enhance local policies.

Whilst in London, oxford Streethas officially been named as oneof the most polluted places on earth because of poor air quality, some areas such as Elephant and Castle, Putney High Street and Clapham Junction are hot on their coat tails. Over the past two yearsI have been working with a number of communities in Wandsworth, Waltham forest, Haringey, Islington, Merton, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Newham and Brent. Here is Lynne Jackson’s story from Battersea:

“In Battersea groups such as Battersea Society, Wandsworth Society, Wandsworth Living Streets have been working with LSx, looking at pollution in Tooting and Clapham Junction. Public Health England data estimates that about 113 people a year die in Wandsworth from the impact of pollution. From our citizen science studies we know that some of most polluted areas in Battersea is along falcon Road next to Clapham Junction Station – where people stand to queue for buses! We also found some worrying spots around Battersea Park Road / Albert Bridge Road junction near the Lighthouse pub.

Other groups have been working around Tooting Bec and Tooting Broadway collecting similar data. We have been lobbying the council for a few things; better monitoring and better engagement with the shops around Clapham Junction. If deliveries can cause less pollution in the area that would be a good thing, but most importantly it’s is clear that there is scope for better guidance to workers and shoppers in the shops to know how to protect themselves from pollution.

The Air Quality Action plan wasout for consultation last year andwe put in a response. We are keen to maintain vigilant monitoring especially since DEFRA have indicated that monitoring of pollution mayno longer be mandatory. Wewere pleased that monitoringwas augmented around Clapham Junction and Tooting Bec – but we need to be vigilant as this is funded by specific grants and therefore things are liable to change.

Fundamental to changing this is for residents to be informed of what’s going on. One initiative supported by LSx was to gather people together last June with some technical wizards as part of Big Data Challenge set by the future Cities Catapult to help develop apps/data programmes relating to air quality. It is hoped these will help give the means for residents to both gather real live data and identify where action needs to be taken. Some great apps are being developed: one will make your phone vibrate (through its GPS system) when you are likely to be in a known pollution hotspot.

So for 2016 there is plenty to be getting on with – pollution has figured largely in Mayoral campaigns and we need to keep it that way. Looking at health and transport budgets need to work together better – public health campaigns working with all residents not just the most vulnerable. But most importantly we need diesel off our roads – ‘Volkswagengate’has made us think again about car manufacturers data, so we need to get on with reducing diesels full stop- so for example in London we need a network of logistics centres so the last mile of delivery can be pollution free”.

Samantha Heath is Chief Executive of the London Sustainability Exchange and a SERA Executive Member. 

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