It is estimated that 155 deaths occur each year in Croydon due to illnesses caused by long-term exposure to air pollution.
A close link has been shown between areas of high deprivation and pollution.
‘Those living in more deprived areas are exposed to higher concentrations of air pollution, often because homes and residences of these groups are situated next to roads with higher concentrations of emissions’.
In advance of an Air Quality Summit proposed for 27 March allowing interested parties to comment on proposed actions and provide a format to engage with the community, and a consultation draft to be presented to the Cabinet at the end of April with wider consultation, the Streets, Environment and Homes Scrutiny Sub-Committee is considering on 31 January a report outlining the approach developed so far to prepare a Air Quality Action Plan, which can be seen here:.
The whole of the borough has been designated as an Air Quality Management Area due to nitrogen dioxide and the Council therefore has a statutory duty to produce a Plan. The will set out what the authority intends to do in pursuit of the air quality objective(s).
The largest sources of nitrogen dioxide are from road transport (57%) and domestic and commercial heating (29%).
The report states that the Supplementary Planning Document (Planning Policy) Croydon’s current policy document for air quality ‘is out of date so it is recommended to produce a new SPD’.
- The SPD sets out the Council’s requirements for improving air quality in new developments, conversions and change of use.
- The SPD will also help implement the objectives of the Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) relating to land use.
The report discusses a range of issues and sets out policy and action options.
Greening new developments
Although it does not state this one of the problems with many of the major developments in Croydon is the lack of incorporation of green measures. The report suggests the following actions could be undertaken.
‘a) Incorporate green infrastructure into policy for all new schools located adjacent to busy roads to require the installation of green infrastructure
b) Incorporate green infrastructure into policy at all new major developments.
c) Incorporate requirement for construction sites to utilise new technology for diesel generators – such as hybrid power solutions which delivers both significant cost savings, cuts air pollution and quieter.’
‘Only half the borough has been designated a Smoke control zone and there is a need to extend the area to the whole of the borough…’
‘It is proposed that a new smoke control order be declared to cover the entire borough revoking the previous partial order. This order will make it an offence to emit smoke from a chimney within the Borough of Croydon with the following exemptions; · Use of an exempted fireplace · Use of unauthorised fuels · Exempted buildings’
The engagement of schools is discussed, air quality near schools being aggravated by the daily school run, as well as passing traffic.
‘This project is aimed at behavioural change to increase walking and cycling. This project needs to be a long term aimed at continued support for behavioural change. This project has now been completed no further funding from DEFRA or the Mayors Air Quality Fund have been awarded. The TfL STARS accredited travel planning programme provides information on the benefits to schools and helps promote model shift. Currently there are 50% of Croydon schools signed up. Options: a) Seek long term funding to continue the Clean air 4 schools programme b) To encourage 80% of schools to sign up to the TfL STARS scheme by 2017/18. c) To train Travel Plan champions at schools to carryout idling vehicle checks.’
‘Research on urban vegetation suggests that it can help reduce the impact of pollution on people and buildings by acting as a pollution sink, especially for particles. furthermore, the transport of pollutants from nearby traffic sources in urban areas can be effectively reduced by using green barriers.’ The options are:
‘a) To incorporate green infrastructure requirements into planning policy for new developments, including schools
b) To install more green infrastructure along pavements to encourage more people to walk and cycle
c) To seek funding to install green screens at a number of existing schools’
These ‘are small areas (generally less than 0.4 hectares) of inviting public space for all people to enjoy, providing relief from the hustle and bustle of the city. These parks make urban environments significantly greener as a result of the addition of green infrastructure and highways improvements including open spaces, walkways for pedestrians and links to existing cycle networks. Studies have shown that people find that in areas with more trees/green areas the air feels cleaner.’ The options are:
- to investigate providing more pocket parks in Croydon
- to increase green infrastructure including trees in suitable areas
Other options for action include:
- replacing boilers at Council buildings with ultra low NOx boilers as part of a rolling programme’
- working with Public Health to incorporate air quality into the new Joint Strategic Needs Assessment
- supporting through funding a volunteer programme to tackle local air quality measures
- working towards a zero diesel Council fleet
- setting up an Ecostars scheme to encourage Private hire vehicles to be cleaner and greener by 2025 and to encourage the take up of diesel free vehicles
- introducing a congestion charging zone in hotspot areas e.g. Purley Way, London Road, Wellesley Road or a Borough wide congestion charging zone
- introducing a surcharge on its permit parking scheme on diesel vehicles in a phased approach
- banning residential bonfires between 6am and 8pm, or completely banning bonfires (bar events), enforceable through Fixed Penalty Notices and introduced by a bye-law
- increasing the number of pedestrian days in South End and/or other locations
- supporting local communities to increase the number of play streets in their areas
Sometimes I wonder whether the Council’s right hand knows what its left is doing and vice-versa. The planners considering the Local Plan last year rejected proposals to amend it by, for example:
- requiring action to reduce exposure of pupils to road congestion air pollution at schools not on main roads
- ensuring that the operation of the waste incinerator being built on Beddington Lane reduces the level of air pollution both from the burning process and from the level of vehicle movements bringing in waste.
- seeking to site new schools away from main roads and ensure that all schools on main roads are equipped with state of the art technology to deal with air pollution.
- working with the Environment Agency and the local health services to monitor residents breathing problems such as asthma in areas where there is a high level of traffic and high buildings.
- taking a sceptical view of all proposals by Transport for London that encourage more car drivers to come into and through Croydon especially to the Town Centre.
- assessing whether there is an increase in air pollution dangers with every five additional stories on proposed tower blocks. It should ensure that new homes are set back from the roads.
- ensuring that clean technology is incorporated to ensure that there are no air polluting emissions, rather than simply minimising it.
The report contains a map showing the differences in air quality and pollution across the Borough. During the consultation stage it would be helpful if it published:
- The average level of air pollution by ward or polling district
- The air pollution readings at street level, and at each 5 storeys height of buildings along London Rd and in the Opportunity Area.
- Air pollution reduction estimates for ensuring that more trees are planted on the College Green and Taberner House/Queens Gdns sites.
- Cluster concentrations of health problems in the Borough associated with air pollution.
For background discussion on Croydon’s air pollution see my Croydon Citizen piece in September 2014 at