Greenwich MP demands ‘leadership’ on air quality after Charlton study reveals illegal pollution

Woolwich Road
The busy Woolwich Road runs past Windrush Primary School

Greenwich & Woolwich MP Matt Pennycook says “leadership” is needed to deal with dangerous levels of air quality in the area after a community study found illegal levels of pollution outside a primary school.

The study from the Valley Hill Hub group, conducted in October 2017 and released last week, shows nitrogen dioxide pollution of 70.2 microgrammes per cubic metre outside Windrush Primary School on Woolwich Road – well above the legal limit of 40µg/m3.

Official levels are recorded over 12 months, but the Valley Hill hub study provides a snapshot that is consistent with figures recorded in recent years by campaign and residents groups such as No to Silvertown Tunnel and the Charlton Central Residents Association, as well as Greenwich Council’s own readings.

The worst level of pollution in the study, which covered an area between The Valley and Little Heath was found at the bus stop at the foot of Charlton Lane (77.5μg/m3), while Charlton Village opposite the White Swan recorded 49.5μg/m3.

Away from main roads, the roundabout at the Charlton Lane/Thorntree Road junction recorded a not-illegal but still harmful 36.5μg/m3. The lowest level was 22.8μg/m3, recorded in the middle of Maryon Wilson Park.

The study was funded by Greenwich Council’s ward budget programme after the Valley Hill Hub found that much of its area was not covered by the council’s own air pollution monitoring scheme.

Volunteers placed tubes on lamp posts and left them up for four weeks before sending them to a lab for analysis.

‘Results are extremely concerning’

Pennycook said: “The results of the Valley Hill Hub monitor project are extremely concerning. They provide yet more evidence of what is beyond doubt a public health crisis.

“No one is immune from the impact of toxins present in the air we breathe, but air pollution disproportionately affects the most vulnerable among us including young children attending Pound Park Nursery, Thorntree Primary School and Windrush Primary School.

“We need leadership at all levels if we’re to reduce pollution and improve air quality across London.”

Woolwich Road
Pollution is high along the A206, but only a small part of east Greenwich has been made a “low emissions neighbourhood”

‘Greater priority needed for traffic reduction’

The study was conducted with Network for Clean Air, which has worked with other local groups in examining pollution in their own neighbourhoods, as well as No to Silvertown Tunnel in looking at the issue across south-east London.

Its co-ordinator Andrew Wood said: “The air pollution monitoring done by Valley Hill Hub showed levels of air pollution much higher than the annual permitted legal limit beside Windrush Primary School on the Woolwich Road, and near the limit at Kinveachy Gardens too.

“The local authority should undertake continuous monitoring at these sites, and action is needed to reduce emissions from buses and traffic. Greater priority is needed for cycling and traffic reduction in the Charlton area.”

While Greenwich Council has implemented a Low Emissions Neighbourhood along the A206 in a small area of central and east Greenwich – following local campaigns against current plans for the Enderby Wharf cruise liner terminal – little has been done to deal with pollution along the rest of the A206, through Charlton, Woolwich and Plumstead, even though this is also a serious issue.

Fears of increased traffic

Furthermore, council-backed plans for the Silvertown Tunnel, the recent expansion of Charlton’s retail parks and the under-construction Greenwich Ikea have heightened fears that pollution will only get worse with more traffic coming through and to the area.

At a London-wide level, some measures have been taken to clean up the bus fleet – particularly on services running through the congestion charge zone – but the Greenwich, Charlton and Woolwich areas have been overlooked for “clean bus zones“, although they will benefit routes that run through Lewisham and New Cross.

Charlton will (just) be covered by the expanded Ultra Low Emissions Zone, which will run as far as the South Circular and is currently due to for introduction in October 2021.

For more on the study, visit the Valley Hill Hub.

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