Posts Tagged ‘Catford’

South Circular Protest

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

London’s air quality is a disgrace with around 2 million people living in areas which have illegal levels of air pollution. Academic studies suggest that there are almost 10,000 premature deaths every year due to the high levels of pollution, and huge levels of pollution related illness.

I can just about remember hearing at the time about the 1952 Great Smog in London, when visibility went down to around a foot and traffic simply had to stop. It was thought to have killed around 12,000 people and the severity led to a Clean Air Act that outlawed coal fires in the city – and we had to switch to Coalite and coke. The smog wasn’t quite so dramatic on the outskirts of the city where we lived, but it was certainly unpleasant, and wrapping scarves around your face if you had to go out wasn’t very effective. And even inside the house, the air wasn’t quite clear.

The air looks much cleaner now, though I still get dirty shirt collars from trips into the city, but the dangers are there if invisible. High levels of nitrogen oxides and other gases, as well as particles too small to be visible. And there are local hot spots around major road junctions and busy roads, often creating up to five times the legal limit for air pollution in Central London and around major roads elsewhere. Road traffic is a major factor in these illegal levels which peak at certain times during the day, particularly during the rush hours. Another peak occurs not far from where I live, around Heathrow and any airport expansion would bring extra road traffic to add to this as well as the pollution from more aircraft.

Boris Johnson when London Mayor failed to take any effective action, but under Sadiq Khan there have been some reductions, with a change to hybrid diesel-electric buses, regulations for new taxis to be electric and the setting up of Ultra-Low Emission Zones, currently covering the inner-city congestion zone, but withe a Low Emission Zone for heavy goods vehicles extending to a wider area of Greater London later this year.

The effects of air pollution and particularly bad for the elderly and those with pre-existing lung conditions who largely make up those who die prematurely, but also for children whose lungs and other organs are still growing and are stunted by pollution, with up to 10% lower capacity than those who live in cleaner air. Many primary and secondary schools in London are in areas with high pollution.

Parents in Catford in South East London whose children live and go to schools close to the South Circular Road are concerned for the health of their children and organised a march and rally calling on Lewisham Council to take bolder and faster action to reduce air pollution, particularly around schools.  Although Lewisham isn’t responsible for the high traffic levels on the route there are remedial measures that can reduce local levels of pollutants such as planting screens of trees and hedges which can drastically reduce the levels of minute particles in particular. Putting barriers on some roads near schools to prevent through traffic would also help. Better cycling provision and bus services can also help to reduce traffic and thus pollution.

More at Clean Air for Catford Children.


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