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October 16th Public Meeting: Part 1 – NO2 Air Pollution in Greenwich Borough

The Q&A session about to start at the No to Silvertown Public Meeting, The Forum, Greenwich, London SE10 - October 16th 2013

On October 16th, 2013 the “No to Silvertown Tunnel” campaign held a public meeting at The Forum in Greenwich to announce the results of our NO2 air pollution monitoring experiment. The following post features transcripts, slides and video from that meeting.

Chris Taylor, No to Silvertown Tunnel

Well, good evening everybody. I’m very, very pleased and surprised to see so many faces here tonight.

Hello, and welcome to this public meeting arranged by the No to Silvertown campaign. Many, many thanks to all of you for taking the time to be here this evening.

As you may be aware, the proposed Silvertown Tunnel is intended to be built not very far from here. As a group, we are already concerned about the air quality in the area, and so we are worried about the potential impacts such a tunnel may have.

We’re going to first talk about our experiences monitoring air pollution around the borough of Greenwich, and then we have guest speakers to give short talks about their areas of expertise, and to discuss the effects a new tunnel would have on our local community, if it were to be built.

First we will hear from Stewart Christie and Darryl Chamberlain about the work we do as the No to Silvertown Tunnel campaign, and our citizen science project, and then we will hear from Ian Mudway, lecturer in Respiratory Toxicology at Kings, Simon Birkett, founding director of the Clean Air in London campaign, John Elliot, an independent Transport Consultant, and Sian Berry, transport campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport who also leads the campaign Roads to Nowhere.

I am sure you are going to have many, many questions as this is something that people have many different views upon, however we hope the presentations will cover the majority of the questions you may have. So we would ask that if you could try to hold on to any questions, any ideas, any thoughts, until the end and we are going to have a nice, big Q&A session for a while, open to everybody.

Also, you should see a card on your seat which has all of the contact details for No to Silvertown Tunnel. Please have a look at the website, you can see it scrolling behind me with all of the data and information we have gathered.

Finally, you may have seen some clipboards being handed around. If you would like to hear more about the project, please leave your contact details. Also, there is a box, and we would really, really love it if people who had skills, time, or ideas to contribute, or to tick to say they are interested in becoming more involved in our campaign.

So, thank you very, very much for turning up tonight. I’ll hand over to Darryl and Stewart to give us a presentation on our citizen science project and the No to Silvertown campaign.

Darryl Chamberlain, No to Silvertown Tunnel

Hello. I’m Darryl Chamberlain, one of the people who started this campaign. Firstly, I’d like to thank you for giving up part of your evening. It’s really appreciated.

A quick word first on what the Silvertown Tunnel actually is. It’s a proposal that has been around in various shapes and forms for quite some time. The current plan is to link the Greenwich Peninsula with the Royal Docks. There will be a road tunnel coming off the A102 at Tunnel Avenue and it will go under the cable car, and emerge at the Lower Lea Crossing roundabout, just over the water in Silvertown. If it gets built you will be able to drive through it. You won’t be able to walk. You won’t be able to cycle.

The Silvertown Crossing proposal

The Silvertown Crossing proposal

TfL’s consultation last year was packed with leading questions. It was, more or less, would you like to solve all of the traffic problems in your area? One of the questions was, “How many times do you cross the river by road?” That has nothing to do with whether or not I want more traffic coming down the motorway that goes through my community.

You would have hoped that our Council would have supported our community. You would have hoped that our MP would have supported our community. In fact, what actually happened, was this.

Greenwich Council's "Bridge the Gap" campaign launch

Greenwich Council’s “Bridge the Gap” campaign launch

That’s the leader of Greenwich Council, the local MP, some business leaders, and other people they got together to support their campaign to build this thing. Greenwich publishes a weekly newspaper which featured this campaign in eight successive issues. There was no real room for open, honest debate.

I was talking with Adam Bienkov about this in December, when TfL launched this consultation, and we thought the council should be told where to stick this campaign. Nobody else locally was actually campaigning against Silvertown – people were maybe scared of the power of Kent drivers. We don’t know.

So, we launched a petition which went into the consultation. We had 373 signatures by the time the consulation closed, and we managed to get quite a bit of attention in the local media, for which we were very grateful.

The "No to Silvertown" petition at change.org

The “No to Silvertown” petition at change.org

We also asked the local residents to ask questions at a local Council meeting, and in 28 questions Greenwich Council could not offer a single shred of evidence to justify its support for Silvertown. I put a Freedom of Information (FoI) request to Greenwich about this and ten months on they are still refusing to offer up their evidence. In fact, Greenwich said it is just going to leave Boris Johnson to come up with the answers instead. I actually asked Boris myself at the State of London debate this year and he didn’t come up with anyting either. He just blustered.

So, after all this, what next?

We were approached by Andrew Wood from the organisation Network for Clean Air. He had organised funding for some pollution tubes. What are these pollution tubes? Here’s one…

NO2 diffusion tube

NO2 diffusion tube

They measure ambient concentrations of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) in the air. So, all we needed were some volunteers, some cable ties and some stools to stand on. The idea was that we would leave these on lamposts, a couple of metres up so they wouldn’t get nicked – we did put one outside here and it did get nicked – and then we would leave them up for four weeks.

Here are some young, fit and healthy volunteers putting the tubes up. The volunteers who put those tubes up are sat around the hall now, so thank you very much for taking part.

13 volunteers placed 56 NO2 diffusion tubes around Greenwich borough

13 volunteers placed 56 NO2 diffusion tubes around Greenwich borough

After four weeks we took them down, sent them back to the lab, and then got the results back. Basically like your old holiday snaps. So we did this, thirteen of us on a sunny Sunday afternoon in June. We chose forty locations along the A102 and A2, which form the approach to the tunnel, and also along the A206, which runs trough Greenwich and Charlton. One other thing I should say about the tubes is that it was part of a bigger funding package for other campaigns north of the river, about Silvertown, and for the Gallions Reach bridge as well. Some tubes were also put up around East Ham, Beckton and North Woolwich but this meeting is about Greenwich, and about Silvertown.

So, we put 56 tubes up and four weeks later we took 53 tubes down. We then got these results from the lab.

These won’t make much sense to you, and they didn’t make much sense to any of us either, so Stewart created this map.

No to Silvertown Tunnel NO2 air pollution monitoring results - June 2013

No to Silvertown Tunnel NO2 air pollution monitoring results – June 2013

Stewart Christie, No to Silvertown Tunnel

Thank you.

Many of you may have seen an earlier version of this map which we have changed slightly in the last 24 hours. As you may know, 40 micrograms per cubic metre (40 µg/m3) is the EU limit for NO2 pollution. The circles you see in green here are the areas that are below 30µg/m3. Those in orange are the ones that are below 40µg/m3. Now, below 40µg/m3 is still an issue for public health which I think will be touched upon later on in this session.

The red circles that you can see are the areas that are between 40µg/m3 and 60µg/m3 – that’s 50% above the Eu maximum. Those in black are the ones that are above 50% of the legal maximum, 50% above the legal limit.

As you can see, we were slightly surprised by the results. The locations we put these tubes in weren’t actually on the A102 or the A2 itself, because that isn’t actually publicly accessible. So, we targeted side roads and we targeted areas that are around the main route itself.

No to Silvertown Tunnel NO2 air pollution monitoring results - June 2013 - Peninsula and Woolwich Flyover

No to Silvertown Tunnel NO2 air pollution monitoring results – June 2013 – Peninsula and Woolwich Flyover

Now, as you can see from the map, around the top where there would be new approaches, we got some pretty high red results. But, around the centre here along the Woolwich Flyover, we actually have some very high ones – 71s, 69s – and, interestingly, along the A205 itself, along the bottom road.

No to Silvertown Tunnel NO2 air pollution monitoring results - June 2013 - Eltham

No to Silvertown Tunnel NO2 air pollution monitoring results – June 2013 – Eltham

As well as that, we had some high readings further back, down by Eltham. As you probably know, around here, the road narrows and there are less carriageways than up top. There are many tailbacks down the bottom here in Eltham and we think this is one of the reasons there were such high readings.

At the same time that we were doing our monitoring experiment we discovered that Greenwich had been doing their own monitoring experiment since 2005. I put an FoI request in to the Council and, after a bit of hassle, I did get their results.

We have our own results from [June] 2013 and, on this next slide, you can see the results of Greenwich’s monitoring, for the entire borough, for the previous month. You can see that the red spots, and the black spots, correlate with our own findings.

Greenwich Council NO2 air pollution monitoring results - May 2013

Greenwich Council NO2 air pollution monitoring results – May 2013

Now, some of you may be thinking, “well, these results aren’t too high, they aren’t too bad”. You have to bear in mind that NO2 levels change according to the month of the year, the season. This result from Greenwich, for 2012, shows Banchory Road and you can see that there is a dip in the spring and summer months. The Greenwich map I have just shown you is from May, ours was from June, and you can see that seasonally it is a bit less.

So, from Greenwich’s data, I have mapped out for tonight the results from December 2012. As you can see, it’s slightly different.

Greenwich Council NO2 air pollution monitoring results - December 2012

Greenwich Council NO2 air pollution monitoring results – December 2012

There are far more black readings, there are far more red readings, there are only a few below the legal maximum. If we compare you can see the difference. In fact, there is only one green spot, one result below 30µg/m3.

Interestingly, some of Greenwich’s results have “background” areas. There is a background area here that is Shrewsbury House in Shooters Hill, which has no main roads beside it, and has a figure that is approaching the maximum. It goes to show that the traffic levels across the borough do affect areas that you wouldn’t expect.

Greenwich Council NO2 air pollution monitoring results - December 2012 - Shooters Hill

Greenwich Council NO2 air pollution monitoring results – December 2012 – Shooters Hill

All of the data is available at our website, which I hope you’ve had a look at already, and if you haven’t, please have a look. You can download anything, you can look at your own area, you can look at the results going back to 2005.

I hope that explains why we are so concerned about our own readings.

Subsequent posts will feature the remainder of the meeting and presentations from Dr. Ian Mudway, Simon Birkett, John Elliot and Sian Berry.