'No one should be aiming to breathe air that is only just legal'

A stock photo of Hampstead Heath, parts of which are a popular cruising ground

Joggers on Hampstead Heath - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

The Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum is calling for volunteers to help with its new project to test the area’s air quality.

The community group is setting out to record levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and compare the results with a similar initiative in 2015. 

The Forum described those results as “a wake-up call to those of us who supposed our leafy suburb largely free of air pollution”.  

Then, NO₂ levels at some sites were 50% and more above the legal limit of 40µg/m³ – and at the junction of Arkwright Rd and Fitzjohn’s Avenue, close to three schools, 69µg/m³ was recorded.    

Stephen Taylor, the chair of HNF, said: “The 40µg/m³ limit is sometimes referred to as an ‘objective’. It is not; it is the level at which legal actions start. No one should be aiming to breathe air that is only just legal.

Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum's Stephen Taylor says we need to "think seriously and creatively" about Hampstead's future.

Stephen Taylor, chair of the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum - Credit: Archant


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“In 2015 we even measured NO₂ in the middle of the Heath. It would be hard to find better air in London.  

“The good news is that the pollution there does not exceed legal limits. The bad news is that at 20µg/m³ the best air in London is already poisoned with half the legal limit of NO₂.

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“Camden admirably aims to conform to WHO-recommended pollution limits – well under the legal limits – by 2030.

“Its Air Action Plan is full of actions. We ask: are we doing enough to reach the goal? 

“Our new survey will discover whether the last five years has improved the air we, and the many children who study in Hampstead, are breathing.” 

The Forum is planning to start testing after the school holidays. It is working in partnership with Green School Runs, the Heath and Hampstead Society, and Camden Council on the scheme.

Traffic in Hampstead High Street 

Traffic in Hampstead High Street - Credit: Polly Hancock

Marc Hutchinson, chair of the Heath and Hampstead Society, said it was pleased to support an “important” project. 

“The disappearance of traffic during the lockdowns gave us a brief but unforgettable vision of a Hampstead without its horrendous traffic pollution,” Marc said.  

Aided by Camden’s air quality officer, the HNF is hoping to also measure the particulates contributed specifically by the Hampstead school run. 

Email air@hampsteadforum.org to register interest in the scheme. To donate visit https://www.hampsteadforum.org/support_us

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