Andrew Marr suggests there could be ‘something sinister’ in HS2’s lack of clear data on air pollution

Campaigning for cleaner air in Primrose Hill with Andrew Marr

Campaigning for cleaner air in Primrose Hill with Andrew Marr - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Broadcaster Andrew Marr has suggested the reluctance of the HS2 authorities to provide clear evidence of the scheme’s impact on air quality could be seen as “slightly sinister”.

Campaigning for cleaner air in Primrose Hill with Andrew Marr

Campaigning for cleaner air in Primrose Hill with Andrew Marr - Credit: Nigel Sutton

Mr Marr, who lives in Primrose Hill, has added his voice to the campaign for cleaner air in Camden amidst fears over how the coming of High Speed rail could harm public health.

On Saturday, Mr Marr joined with two organisations, Transition Primrose Hill and Clean Air UK, to draw attention to the levels of poisonous nitrogen dioxide that residents are breathing in before even a single track of the new line has been laid.

He said: “I believe in the facts - and unless we have good factual evidence of the air quality before the HS2 project starts, we won’t know its effect on Camden, Primrose Hill and our health.

“The reluctance of the authorities to do this for us is alarming and, some would say, slightly sinister.”

HS2 Ltd produced a 50,000 page draft environmental statement in 2014, which was widely criticised for being unreadable and condemned by Camden Council for not taking sufficient account of its own health impact assessment.

The campaign team installed collection devices at various points across the borough to detect the levels of nitrogen dioxide, and Mr Marr was part of the team out collecting the test tubes, which have now been sent to the lab.

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Phil Cowan from Transition Primrose Hill said: “This data will also be vitally important as a baseline to present to HS2 Ltd. “They have been consistently evasive in wanting to help establish information of this type, as they rightfully realise that when construction begins on the new railway, the levels of pollution in Camden will rocket.

“Ultimately, we hope this project will be effective in changing habits to reduce pollution levels for everybody in our area, now and in the future, making for a healthier environment.”

The results of the experiment will be used to produce a colour-coded map showing where toxicity is at its worst in the borough.

Pollution has become something of a hot topic in the run-up to the mayoral elections, with all the major candidates pledging to tackle the problem through various means.

With the HS2 bill having breezed through its third Commons reading, campaign groups have pointed to the fact that levels of nitrogen dioxide in the air already exceed EU and British legal limits.

A major study in 2015 by King’s College London attributed 9,500 premature deaths in London in 2010 to air pollution, including 264 deaths in Camden.

Camden Council is currently consulting residents on its new Clean Air Action Plan (CAAP), and said that it continues to exceed European objectives for air pollution.

Cllr Meric Apac, Camden’s chief of environment, said: “Camden has a strong track record of working with public health professionals to tackle air pollution, and we can see the relationship strengthening further in the future.

“Air pollution is also increasingly in the news, with the UK government under pressure to produce new plans to meet European objectives.

“We must work together to take advantage of the opportunities this increased profile may bring, and build momentum through this new action plan to improve the air we breathe.”