Tag Archives: greenwich

October 16th Public Meeting: Part 6 – Andrew Wood, Clean Air UK

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.

« Part 1 – NO2 Air Pollution in Greenwich Borough

« Part 2 – Dr. Ian Mudway: “Air pollution bad for human health?”

« Part 3 – Simon Birkett, Clean Air in London

« Part 4 – John Elliott, Independent Transport Consultant

« Part 5 – Siân Berry, Campaign for Better Transport

Chris Taylor: Many thanks to everybody for bearing with us so far. I hope you’ve still got your questions stored up.

First of all, we’d like to introduce Andrew Wood from Clean Air UK, the Network for Clean Air. He has given our campaign valuable support and guidance.

Andrew Wood, Clean Air UK – Network for Clean Air

Thank you, and good evening.

My name is Andrew Wood, and I work with Network for Clean Air. We network people and communities for better air quality and less air pollution. Last year we organised a conference: ‘Cities for Clean Air: London 2012’ – immediately prior to the London Olympics, and this year we organised a programme of citizen science – both in London and elsewhere.

CleanAirUk.org London Programme 2013

There were three groups that were part of the London programme: No to Silvertown Tunnel (Greenwich) – which you heard about earlier, Stop City Airport in Newham, and Friends of the Earth who surveyed the area around Gallions Reach in Newham. For the London programme we provided: over £1,000 worth of materials and equipment, staff time, information, co-ordination and assistance in whatever way was necessary for the three projects to complete successfully – which they all have. A couple of weeks ago, the results for Newham were presented at City Hall; this evening we heard the results for Greenwich.

The Greenwich citizen science project is particularly inspiring because it genuinely engaged the community. There were 13 volunteers – 10 from Greenwich, 2 from Bexley and one from Lewisham. This is very good indicator of an active and vibrant civil society – exactly what is needed to stop the proposed Silvertown Tunnel. It wouldn’t be the first time a traffic crossing of the Thames was turned around. The Thames Gateway Bridge was canceled by Boris Johnson after a strong public campaign and defeat at public inquiry. Other road schemes have been stopped by residents – for example, the Salisbury Bypass.

Clearly, the Silvertown Tunnel is more than a local road scheme – it’s already designated a national infrastructure project, and it would expand the present crossing from 4 to 8 lanes – a motorway. That will bring traffic blight to Greenwich and neighboring boroughs. It thelonger term it could see a motorway corridor spanning the capital – which would be a complete disaster for London.

There are a whole set of measures which are needed at a regional level to tackle traffic: congestion charging, a workplace parking levy for example or similar demand management measures as they’re known. We also need to put in place infrastructure for a healthy city. We need to engineer health into London. That means for example, a dedicated cycle and pedestrian bridge spanning the Thames at Greenwich. What provision is there, at the moment for cycling? None. We need to make space for cycling. That retains the things which make Greenwich special, and promotes levels exercise – as part of our everyday lives – which are needed to maintain a healthy population.

I would urge you, if you live in Greenwich, Newham ,Lewisham, Tower Hamlets or elsewhere, to join with No to Silvertown Tunnel and articulate your voices – because that way, you will be heard and this motorway crossing will be stopped.

Thank you.

« Part 1 – NO2 Air Pollution in Greenwich Borough

« Part 2 – Dr. Ian Mudway: “Air pollution bad for human health?”

« Part 3 – Simon Birkett, Clean Air in London

« Part 4 – John Elliott, Independent Transport Consultant

« Part 5 – Siân Berry, Campaign for Better Transport

“No to Silvertown Tunnel” would like to thank Andrew Wood and the Network for Clean Air for taking the time to come to Greenwich this evening, and for the invaluable support he has given our citizen science monitoring project.

Our seventh, and final, post will feature the remainder of the meeting with the public Q&A session.

October 16th Public Meeting: Part 2 – Dr. Ian Mudway: “Air pollution bad for human health?”

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.

« Part 1 – NO2 Air Pollution in Greenwich Borough

Chris Taylor: Not everyone is going to be familiar with what NO2 means to people and what actual effects it has. So fortunately for us we have with us Dr Ian Mudway, who is a lecturer in Respiratory Toxicology at King’s College. Ian has worked with schools just north of the tunnel in Poplar, and his research has shown some of the impacts of the air pollution on children’s lungs

Dr Ian Mudway, Kings College London

Good evening, everyone.

Dr. Ian Mudway, Kings College London

Sometimes when we get given numbers on maps, it doesn’t mean a great deal and it doesn’t convey to you the sense that air pollution in London is extremely bad.  So I thought I’d start this talk by making it a bit more tangible by showing you an image.  This is a picture taken in March this year. So this is one of those periods where it’s cold and you get higher concentrations of nitrogen dioxide.

And you can see this brown – almost like a cloud hanging over the whole of the city – and this is a cloud of nitrogen dioxide. So forget the number, forget the size of the number though that is important: you can see it from a distance. If you were walking down that street you wouldn’t be able to see it at all, it’s an invisible gas, but from a distance looking across London you can actually see it. And that’s what we all live in. And I’m not immune from this; I’m not from Greenwich although I’m from New Cross so I’m also living under that cloud.

But it’s actually a little bit worse than that: I can show you a picture that was taken earlier in the day. So this was taken in the late afternoon, you can see that the brown is rising above Canary Wharf.  But this was taken in the morning.

Dr. Ian Mudway - Slide 2

So this is now a photograph taken from Woolwich looking out across the city. And you can very clearly here see just how bad the nitrogen dioxide pollution gets in the cold winter months in London.  And this is another thing; sometimes people forget this. There’s this concept that when you emit pollution from vehicles into the air, it just sort of disperses. And there’s a lot of air so we don’t need to worry about it.

If you look at this picture you’ll see that there’s actually quite a sharp line and that’s because in the winter the air’s quite cold, it’s quite stable. So effectively, on a cold day in London, you have an invisible ceiling on the atmosphere at about 300m. And now pause and imagine that all of the fumes from all of the vehicles in London are filling up an area of air that has an effective ceiling. It’s not dissipating out. Later in the day it begins to as the atmosphere warms up, but that’s why in the morning the air pollution gets particularly bad, more so than later in the day. So you can see it.  And if you have a number from an NO2 diffusion tube here, they would be black; it would be in that black sort of range.

And then I pose some questions. And these are the sort of questions which are often raised when people say air pollution’s quite bad and people know it is, but you know, you can derail people’s thought processes.

The first one is: all right, we’ve got air pollution, but it’s not as bad as it used to be. And they’ll always take you back on some historical journey back to the nineteen-fifties, and they’ll show you this picture – a very famous picture – of the 1952 smog. And clearly during the smog, things were pretty bad. The one that occurred in December 1952 killed four and a half thousand people within five days, so clearly something had to be done.

An interesting parallel though – I think this is really important – when they discovered the smog (and this all came from coal burning) was killing people in 1952, they did not jump up in Government and say ‘we must do something to save the public’s health.’  They said ‘we can’t do anything because we’re in a period of economic crisis and it will be destructive to industry and the recovery of the country after the war.’

The reason we have a Clean Air Act and this was dealt with, is not because the Government wanted to do it; it was introduced under the radar by way of a Member’s Bill.  So even back then, when you had an event that was killing four and a half thousand people, the Government always said ‘we can’t do anything because it would affect the economic development of the country.’

Sound familiar? It is a little bit familiar to the situation today.

Dr. Ian Mudway - Slide 3

But there are lessons we can learn.

So if you look back to 1952 you simply ask the question ‘Who died, during that week?’ And what this is looking at is a few areas within Inner London, and it’s looking at the increased ratio of people dying, stratified by age.

And this is really, really important.

Because when you hear about the London smog and how bad it used to be, you’re always told that it was the very old, ill, infirm people who died. And that’s certainly true, if you’re willing to accept that ‘old’ is over the age of 45 – because if you look here you can see a two-fold, three-fold, doubling of death rates within those age groups.  And here’s the thing you’re never told: it’s the other side.  The death rate also doubles in children under one year old. So the sensitive populations, the populations who were suffering the most during this air pollution episode, were the elderly, those entering their retirement age, and the young.

And you know what? That doesn’t change.

So if we’re having an air pollution debate, we should be considering those members of our population who are the most vulnerable. And that does include our children, as I shall point out in the next slide.

Things have changed. So as the smogs of the nineteen-fifties were caused by coal burning – we don’t really have coal burning in London any more. I mean there are some people who burn bio-mass, […] which they shouldn’t really do, but now much of our pollution comes from traffic. And this is again an point where people get a bit confused, because what are we really talking about?

Dr. Ian Mudway - Slide 4

Because there are lots of different types of pollution. We have particles – particulate matter, small particles emitted into the air, which are intangible, you won’t see them. If you talk about something having particulate matter 10 microns, that’s about the size of e. coli. If you’re near a road, particles which come out of an exhaust pipe are about 100 nanometres; that’s the size of the influenza virus.  So you’ve moved from a visible smoke to an invisible killer. It’s still there, it’s just changed its nature.

So then we have all these other things: we have carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide – which we’re spending most of our time talking about today – we have black carbon, then we have a whole host of other things that are in this toxic brew.  We have polyaromatic hydrocarbons, we have VOCs, we have metals, in fact diesel exhaust contains one of the most carcinogenic compounds that has ever been identified. So it is quite a complicated mix.

So we have all of these things we have to consider, and then you have to ask: where they come from?  Because the air out there’s a mixture of different sources: you have diesel vehicles, gasoline vehicles. Even if you got rid of all of the exhaust emissions we’d still have pollution come from brake wear, because when you brake, big plumes of copper are released into the atmosphere. You also have resuspension of lying road dust. So it’s a complicated picture, and then there are other things.

So where does it come from? Well in London, you could really take a lot of that information and condense it down and say ‘there are lots of things here’,  but there is a common theme, and it’s largely traffic-derived. In London it’s the traffic-derived pollution we’re concerned about.  And many of these things actually vary together, so that as NO2 goes up, you tend to see an increase in the particles in the air, you see an increase in the black carbon.  It’s traffic, and particularly it’s diesel traffic, diesel vehicles and the preponderance and great density of diesel vehicles on the road.

This is the elephant in the room; it’s called exposure. Just because the air out there is polluted, doesn’t mean you’re all exposed to it to the same extent. How much do you actually breathe? Depends on how much you ventilate – if you’re running you’re going to breathe more than someone who’s walking quietly down the street.

But the reason I’ve highlighted exposure here is, let’s think of a group of individuals who spend more time outdoors than adults? Children. They have a greater exposure because they spend more time outdoors. They have higher ventilation rates – their breathing rate’s faster than an adult’s. So if they’re outside, they breathe more of the air than you do, and they have smaller lungs, which are developing. Which means that the amount of toxins entering their lungs is greater per unit area of lung. So a child outside, if it’s 70 micrograms per metre cubed, is getting a bigger dose of the toxin than an adult in the same environment. It’s one of the reasons why children are a sensitive sub-population.

Dr. Ian Mudway - Slide 5

How serious is it? Well, we’re kind of fortunate in a sense, that this has been reviewed by the government.  This is a report published in 2010, by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution.  This is the figure that the Government itself will quote to you about the magnitude of the air pollution problem. In fact this is the figure that they quoted in a very recent House of Lords debate, which was raised by Lord Lawson.

In 2008, the UK population lost 340,000 years of life, so think about everybody in this room losing an amount of their life in relation to the amount of the exposure. But you can think of it another way; if you take that 340,000 and you think about the most sensitive individuals, it means there are 29,000 premature deaths in the United Kingdom per year arising from particulate pollution. That is a huge number. It’s greater than the number of people dying from obesity-related illnesses, it’s greater than the number of people dying from alcohol-related illnesses. It’s only second to cigarette smoking within the United Kingdom as a cause of premature mortality.

So this is a public health disaster, which needs to be dealt with.

And it’s not just a disaster on a personal front; economically if you have a vista which takes in the future, and not just the next immediate four-year period of time, this is a huge burden on the health system. We’re meant to be protecting our investment in the health service by improving the public’s health – this has to be one of our major targets.

Dr. Ian Mudway - Slide 6

I’ve given you information about death because death statistics are very popular, but the problem when you look at death, is that’s just the tip of the iceberg of health effects. So if we have 29,000 premature deaths, that’s going to represent a massive increase in hospital admissions. There’ll be more people visiting doctors: asthmatics, people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, people with cardiac disease, having to see their doctors, having to attend the GPs’ surgeries. We’re going to have increased medication use; so we have cost to the health service all the way down here. And then right at the bottom, in this purple segment, is what’s happening to everyone in the entire country, just from being outside near a road on a polluted day.

Now one of the things I do, is I take happy Scandinavian medical students, from a place called Umea in the far north of Sweden, and I put them inside chambers and I expose them to diesel exhaust at the concentration of diesel exhaust that they would experience if they were in London. I can’t do that study in London, because by the time you’d arrived at my laboratory for me to expose you to diesel, you’d have had more diesel than I’m about to give you as your challenge. If I look at their lungs, their lungs are inflamed. Their lungs react immediately – you can see that it has a physical effect on their airways.

Dr. Ian Mudway - Slide 7

Another thing that I should make a point of  – because we often get completely focussed on roads – and a lot of people in the rest of the world don’t understand that because most people in most cities in the world don’t live slap-bang next to roads. We do, because of the nature of London. I do a lot of work in Tower Hamlets and Hackney, and this just illustrates the number of postcodes within 100m of a major road. And that becomes important in the next slide.

Dr. Ian Mudway - Slide 8

This I think, is the most important figure. If you can take this away with you, this would be the most important thing. I’ve been studying children’s respiratory health in Tower Hamlets and Hackney for the last five years. This year’s going to be the last year we’re doing our study. Each of those dots is an eight to nine year-old child. If you’re looking at this map, and it’s yellow – and this is a map from 2009 – that means that that child is living in an area with an annual level of nitrogen dioxide over 40 micrograms per metre cubed.

That means it’s not a hotspot: it’s not that one tube on that one corner, it’s almost the entirety of Hackney, and over 90% of the area of Tower Hamlets.

In this slide, there’s only one child who lived in an area where the air quality of NO2 was legal, and he was over here. So let’s put a number on that: I did this off the top of my head, and I think I can do it again. Tower Hamlets and Hackney have a combined population of about half a million. If I was to assume, conservatively, that 75% of people in those boroughs lived in a high pollution area, it would mean that about 375,000 people in those two boroughs live in an area of illegal air quality – in that brown cloud. And that is just an unacceptable reality at the present moment in time.

Dr. Ian Mudway - Slide 9

Don’t think about abstract numbers; think about the people. It’s about the people who live in these areas, and people forget that.

Dr. Ian Mudway - Slide 10

I just want to say it’s not a new problem. If you think ‘oh, he’s gone on about diesel exhaust, and we’ve been told diesels are good’. We’ve known diesel is bad since 1956. The first reports were published in the BMJ saying diesel was bad for health a long, long time ago. It’s not a new story, it’s been around for a very long time. And in my area, we are completely surprised that people endlessly say ‘well, we didn’t know’ because we’ve been telling you for years.

And then finally: you don’t have to take my word for it.  This is just one report, but it’s a very important report.

Dr. Ian Mudway - Slide 11

The HEI is a US-funded institution, half funded by the government, half funded by industry. It’s meant to give completely independent, legally sound summaries of air pollution and health advice.  And they published this report, again in 2010, to review the evidence.  And I’ll just give you this final point, because this is something you can wave in front of people, and you can say ‘it’s not just a few scientists who have a vested interest in their next research grant.’ This has been thoroughly reviewed.

Dr. Ian Mudway - Slide 12

There is no doubt that being exposed to high levels of air pollution causes premature mortality.  This is one of the most robust, repeatable pieces of scientific evidence there has been in the last 25 years. There’s no doubt that if children have asthma, it makes their asthma worse. No doubt; and we’re allowing our children to grow up in a city with unacceptably high air pollution. And also, and increasingly, I now believe that there’s no doubt that children who grow up in polluted areas have stunted lung development. Their lungs don’t develop properly. We’re seeing that in our children in Tower Hamlets and Hackney. Their lungs at the age of nine were already smaller than they ought to be. And that’s a burden that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Dr. Ian Mudway - Slide 13

« Part 1 – NO2 Air Pollution in Greenwich Borough

“No to Silvertown Tunnel” would like to thank Dr. Ian Mudway for taking the time to come to Greenwich and discuss issues of air quality with us.

Subsequent posts will feature the remainder of the meeting and presentations from Simon Birkett, John Elliot, Sian Berry and Andrew Wood, along with the public Q&A session.

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.

GUEST POST: John Stewart, UK Noise Association – Sinking the plans for the Silvertown Tunnel

Approaching the Blackwall Tunnel

John Stewart is the Chair of The UK Noise Association and author of “Why Noise Matters” (ISBN: 9781849712576 – Taylor & Francis/Earthscan, 2011). He also edited and contributed to “Poor Show” (Simon Wolff Charitable Foundation, 1988) which addressed poverty, transport and health in South London and contained interviews with people affected by traffic pollution, as well as useful facts and figures.

The following article was first published by the UKNA in May 2013 and is republished here with John’s kind permission:-

Sinking the plans for the Silvertown Tunnel

by John Stewart

“Noise justice is a key part of social justice; a belief that everyone deserves to live peacefully and quietly in a safe secure home”

DEFRA noise map of Greenwich from http://services.defra.gov.uk/wps/portal/noise/

DEFRA noise map of Greenwich – find out more at DEFRA Noise Mapping England

It is a road which is very special for me. It is not a tree-lined boulevard or a pretty country lane. In fact, it is one of the noisiest, dirtiest roads in the country. But, that’s why it is so special.

Thirty years ago when I was newish to London I took a wrong turning and found myself walking along the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach Road. (Sorry for the non-catchy name but it does what it says on the tin). I was hit by a wall of fast-moving traffic all the way from the Blackwall Tunnel to the Bow flyover, a distance of approaching two miles. And as I looked at the tower blocks, flats and estates within yards of the road and saw the children playing beside the roaring traffic, I thought: “never again should this kind of road be built”. Nothing, but nothing, can justify this acoustic hell.

That experience was one of the reasons I became so deeply involved in the “anti-roads” movement in the late 1980s. I chaired ALARM, the London-wide umbrella network made up of 250 local groups opposed to road building across the capital. And in the 1990s I was one of the founders and the chair of the national network, ALARM UK. You can read about it in Roadblock. (The original had wonderful pictures but it was before the age of the internet and was never put online).

Unbelievably, one of the road schemes proposed was a parallel Blackwall Tunnel. It would have poured yet more traffic within yards of the tower blocks, flats and estates. I worked alongside the local protest group, SPLASH, brought together by the radical nun, Sister Christine. Anybody who dares to suggest that people choose to live beside a road like the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach or that they get used to the noise should have been at one of those meetings. The passion, the anger, the helplessness was palpable.

Approaching the Blackwall Tunnel

Never again should this kind of road be built. Nothing, but nothing, can justify this acoustic hell

However, SPLASH was successful. The plans for a parallel tunnel were stopped. In fact, virtually all the road building proposals for London of the 1980s and 1990s were abandoned in the face of overwhelming public opposition. The fiercely contested M11 Link Road in East London, completed in the mid-1990s and the focus of the longest, continuous direct action protest in British road-building history was the last major road to be built in the capital.

Silvertown Tunnel = yet more traffic

Until now. The Mayor of London has consulted on plans to build…..a parallel Blackwall Tunnel. He’s renamed it. He is calling it the Silvertown Tunnel. And it has a slightly different alignment to the previous proposal. But it will still bring a flood of extra traffic on to the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach Road since it will double the capacity of the existing tunnel, 6-12 million extra vehicles a year.

All this extra traffic will pour into an area which is one of the poorest in the country. Many of the wards through which the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach Road passes are amongst the most deprived in the UK. The borough, Tower Hamlets, is the 3rd or 7th (depending on the measurement used) most deprived in England –

Retracing my steps

And so last week I retraced my steps. Once more I walked from the Blackwall Tunnel to the Bow Flyover. The tower blocks have had a lick of paint. Some of the flats have had been modernised. Some, indeed, were new. There seemed to be a few more noise barriers than previously.

But the roar of the traffic was still there. I had taken a noise meter with me. The official statics shows that it averages out at over 75 decibels (see map – the Blackwall Approach Rd runs north/south straight through the middle of the map) – much higher than the aircraft noise experienced by most people in West London. When I was there the noise never fell below 60 decibels and frequently exceeded 85 decibels. The area, too, has one of the highest levels of air pollution in the country.

Noise bands on the northern side of the Blackwall Tunnel

Noise bands on the northern side of the Blackwall Tunnel

The children were still playing within yards of the road. A mother and her young son, laden with their shopping, trudged along it to catch the bus. The youths had a quick fag outside the chip shop before disappearing down the gray, featureless underpass.

I then heard another noise – aircraft. Thirty years ago, London City Airport hadn’t opened. Today Blackwall and Bow are directly under the airport’s take-off flight path. Thirty years ago, the number of planes using Heathrow was half what it is now. They didn’t impact of East London. Today, they are a constant feature. Why don’t they complete the job, I thought, and make Bromley-by-Bow underground station, the terminal for HS2.

“All this extra traffic will pour into one of the poorest areas in the UK Silvertown Tunnel not needed”

But back to the Mayor’s plans for a new tunnel. It is simply not required. Transport for London (TfL) argues that the current tunnel is full. It further argues that, if London’s population rises to 10 million by 2030, gridlock could set in. This is set out in its recently published Roads Task Force report.

If current policies remain in place, TfL’s predictions are likely to come true. Traffic congestion will become widespread. Clogged streets are already costing business a fortune. According to Traffic Congestion European cities (2011), a study carried out by the navigation system specialist firm, TomTom, London is the third most congested city in Europe.

There are effective ways, however, to cut congestion without resorting to building more tunnels and roads. The business organisation, London First, favours road pricing. Indeed, TfL’s Roads Task Force implies that many of its road schemes would be unnecessary if road pricing was introduced. It is the logical answer but politicians are wary about the reaction of the public.

Tougher parking standards, a further reallocation of road space to non-car modes, policies to revive town centres at the expense of edge-of-town developments would all help reduce traffic. And that is the key: traffic reduction. Tough targets to reduce car traffic would provide the incentive for TfL and the boroughs to adopt these sorts of policies.

Traffic reduction: a realistic alternative

They might not as difficult to implement as many believe. There is considerable evidence of a peak car effect in London. Research from the Centre for London suggests car usage is falling “partly due to an increase in low car-use demographic groups, and to lifestyle factors such as mobile technology.”

How vehicle traffic has fallen (excl bicycles)

How vehicle traffic has fallen (excl bicycles)

And, remember, a 2010 Department for Transport report found that 66 per cent of trips made in the UK were less than five miles, yet more than half of these were made by car. Twenty two per cent of trips were less than one mile, around a 20 minute walk, but 20 per cent of these journeys were also made by car.

Road pricing, introduced in the right way, can be popular. The money collected from the Central London scheme introduced by the previous Mayor, Ken Livingstone, made possible the historic improvement to London’s bus services. Just think how business would feel if their vehicles were no longer bogged down in traffic. And how Londoners would react if they were told that road pricing would mean the exorbitant fares they pay on the bus, tubes and trains were to be halved. I don’t know if the fares could be cut as much as 50% but you get the drift on how to sell road pricing.

And, oh yes, it would be welcomed by the people living beside the Blackwall Tunnel Northern Approach Road. Noise justice.

John Stewart, May 2013