With the support of Portico Gallery, community groups Norwood Planning Assembly, Norwood Forum, Norwood Action Group and Station to Station (our local BID) held a public meeting on 24 September to discuss the quality of the air that we all breath – and what we can do to improve it.
Below you can read all the main areas that were discussed and see here the slides that formed the background to each speaker’s presentation.
Introduction: Tom Venables, Norwood Planning Assembly
Tom outlined the three main types of air pollutant: Particulate Matter, Nitrous dioxide (N02) and Ozone (03). Poor air quality can lead to asthma, impair lung and brain development and could be a cause of obesity and diabetes. In May this year the Norwood Planning Assembly conducted an Air Quality Citizens Science Experiment to measure N02 air pollution and installed 15 diffusion tubes in locations across Norwood. This included a mix of main traffic routes, residential streets and Norwood Park. The results demonstrated potential illegal levels of Nitrous Oxide along main roads within Norwood including Knights Hill, Norwood Road, the Tulse Hill Gyratory and Thurlow Park Road. The cost of air pollution is London is around £3.7bn and is responsible for 9,400 deaths.
Florence Eshalomi AM (FE), Chair Transport Committee, GLA
Florence began by reflecting that "Air quality is an issue that affects everyone" and City Hall has declared a Climate Emergency. It is recognised that cars are the major source of pollutant and the air quality monitoring station on Brixton Road notoriously always reaches its maximum annual target in the first week of the year. City Hall are leading with a number of initiatives to reduce pollution, most important of which is the Ultra Low Emission Zone, which is to be extended in 2021 to the North and South Circulars. This zone is in operation 24hrs a day, seven days a week and fines drivers of cars that exceed the emission limit. Other current schemes include a vehicle scrappage scheme (with special support for supports micro businesses, sole traders and charities), specific work on the bus network, extending Santander bikes, promoting car clubs, car idling campaigns and installing more rapid charging points for electric cars. The City Hall transport policy's aim is to encourage more use of buses, as well as cycling and walking. One action Florence suggested was a community approach to Arriva/Norwood Bus Garage regarding electrification, as Norwood is behind Camberwell bus garage in this. In the Q&A that followed, and a query about trains being included in the successful hopper fare scheme, Florence explained that trains were privatised and so beyond the remit of City Hall.
Cllr Jackie Meldrum, Knight's Hill Ward
Lambeth was the first London Borough to declare a Climate Emergency. Jackie strongly made the point that poor air quality was largely down to road traffic and we need to stop using fossil fuel vehicles. She told the meeting that Lambeth has three monitoring stations; there will be more to come, and local residents will be consulted on their location. Jackie was especially concerned about schools in polluted areas and described the Council's green wall initiative that is being rolled out to help mitigate the pollution. The Council has a target to be carbon neutral by 2030 and is keen to engage with people. Jackie reiterated her support for our Green Town Plan, stating it is an important to set goals.
Cllr Pete Elliott, Gipsy Hill Ward
Pete was critical of the monitoring devices being used in Lambeth, adding he also considered the Council's plans were not bold enough. Diffusion tubes used in the Green Town Plan experiment did not measure particulate matter, and Lambeth's three monitoring stations - one of which is a base station and not in a polluted area – do not deliver reliable and sufficient data, in his opinion. Although there are plans to expand the number of monitors, Pete felt that the size of the Sustainability Team at Lambeth was inadequate given its declaration of a Climate Emergency. Pete’s list of key contributors to air quality are: (1) Developments and particularly demolition, (2) Air Traffic, (3) Domestic burning of coal, oil and wood and (4) Road traffic and he is currently gathering support for a project similar to the simple, yet effective, traffic calming in De Beauvoir Town, Hackney (see Pete’s slides for more information). He called for people to get involved, lobby MPs and Councillors.
Thomas Denhof, Chair Open Orchard
Thomas focussed on the many benefits of trees to the environment and therefore our lives. Air pollution in the UK annually causes the deaths of 29,000 people, and trees can help reduce this by filtering nitrous and sulphur dioxide. There are 2.5mn cars in London and cities are now designed/redesigned to facilitate them. Thomas is working on several projects including promoting tree planting on Norwood Road - which due to service cables lying shallow under the pavement is proving difficult - but new ambitious ideas are being proposed, and also, with some potentially more promising progress, planting trees on forgotten, semi-derelict sites. Thomas reminded us that trees also reduce the risk of flooding and provide shade and humidity, creating biodiversity and improving our health & well-being. Thomas ended with the following call for action : (1) Urgent progress on mitigating the effects of Climate Change, (2) Volunteering with Open Orchard to plant trees (see how here), (3) Change the current Lambeth policy of charging for green waste and (4) Stop the use of glyphosates across Lambeth especially by contractors on housing estates.
CONCLUSION: Tom Venables, Norwood Planning Assembly
Tom wrapped up the meeting by raising the importance of community empowerment. Norwood needs to develop policies on air quality – and those must meet the needs of our community. The Norwood Planning Assembly is currently in the process of creating a Neighbourhood Plan and underpinning this is a Green Town Charter co-produced by this meetings partners: Norwood Planning Assembly, Norwood Forum, Norwood Action Group, and Station-to-Station BID. The Charter puts forward high level aspirations for the community and sets the tone for producing more detailed policies and ideas in the months ahead - The Charter sets out the vision for Norwood to be London’s Greenest Town by 2030. Read all about the Charter here.
The Q&A session, the comments/questions written up on post-it notes, and all the commentary above will be developed into an action plan, with suggestions on specific ways the community can further contribute. If you want to get involved, please contact us here.