Opinion: Solicitor Jessica Learmond-Criqui says Hampstead pollution must be tackled
PUBLISHED: 14:58 31 May 2017 | UPDATED: 14:58 31 May 2017
There is a lot of noise around the pollution debate. So, as a lay person, I delved into the data to try to understand what the experts had to say and particularly in relation to Hampstead and NW3.
I found that there was a data capture black hole in NW3 filled by computer modelling. In addition, despite its sensitive location (being certainly the schools’ capital of London), Hampstead’s particular pollution situation is not on any air quality focus area lists so that it is not on the radar for effective action by any particular air quality control authority.
I also learned that the greatest concentrations of traffic pollutants are often predicted in the middle of road junctions or in the centre of busy roads where the public do not normally have access (although cyclists do) and that these are not generally areas of relevant exposure for the assessment of EU Limit Values and UK air quality objectives.
But I suggest that they should be, given that cycling by the public is being aggressively propagated by the government and the Mayor. What does this say about guidance regarding the health of cyclists who are usually in the middle of busy roads?
I suggest, therefore, that the government’s and the Mayor’s cycling policies are deeply flawed, as they encourage the public to cycle on busy roads with their cycle superhighways in a pollution soup many times the national safety limit.
They are spending billions on various cycling infrastructures but do little to address diesel vehicles on the road which are one of the main causes of NO2 emissions.
I further suggest that by encouraging the public to cycle without eliminating the health risks of travelling in the centre of the road, they are potentially putting the public’s health at risk.
I have reviewed the London Air website and Camden Council’s own air quality monitoring website.
The current approach to data collection has high quality measurements but poor spatial coverage. While there is a network of monitoring equipment around London, there is none in NW3 where little pollution data is captured north of Adelaide Road at Swiss Cottage.
This data black hole is filled with computer modelling which presents a picture of pollution which is not far wrong from our own readings but having monitoring equipment actually in Hampstead, (such as an AQ Mesh at various sites), would help one to feel that the final presentation of data is as accurate as possible. Residents own readings have shown that on some streets, the NO2 levels are quite high but this does not quite translate to the computer modelled versions. That impacts on the focus given to our area by the relevant authorities.
Camden has been using diffusion tubes to monitor air quality at 47 Fitzjohns Avenue. Their readings show that the NO2 emissions at this site were significantly above national safety levels with a reading of 85ug/m3 on 1 January 2017 and readings in 2015 and 2016 all being above 40ug/m3.
Despite all of this air monitoring, there is little joined up thinking between boroughs. When Briardale Gardens residents tried to tackle their air pollution and rat running problems on their own, suggesting changes to their streets which were supported by Camden, Barnet rejected the plans because residents of the street next door (who were in Barnet), did not want to inherit Briardale’s problems - something is not working in our system and it needs to be fixed.
In conclusion, Hampstead is on no one’s radar with our particular issues with diesel lorries and the school run and with the impending increase in congestion and pollution from CS11, the pollution concerns will only get worse. That needs to change.