Green infrastructure could form key weapon in London Mayor's war on school air pollution

Green infrastructure could form part of new plans to improve air quality in and around London primary schools.

Image: Flickr/Andrew Nash (Creative Commons)
Image: Flickr/Andrew Nash (Creative Commons)

Measures such as ‘barrier bushes’ along busy roads and in playgrounds to provide protection against toxic fumes and creating more cycling and walking routes are among a series of measures likely to be used in a new project aimed at mitigating pollution and protecting children’s health, according to the Mayor of London’s office.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan yesterday announced £250,000 funding for air quality audits in 50 London primary schools, to be carried out by an experienced transport and environment consultancy.  

This will review ways to dramatically lower emissions and exposure to pollution in and around each school.

The audits will identify the measures which can go some way towards protecting pupils locally from toxic air. The 50 primary schools are located in areas exceeding legal limits of nitrogen dioxide in several of London boroughs, a fact described as "shameful" by the Mayor.

London boroughs will then be able to work with schools to implement changes, using some of the £1 billion in funding Khan is giving to London boroughs between now and 2022 to deliver transport, town centre and public space improvements. The first £220m was announced in December

Sadiq Khan said: "Every child deserves the right to breathe clean air in London and it is a shameful fact that more than 360 of our primary schools are in areas breaching legal pollution limits. London’s filthy air is a health crisis and our children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of air pollution.

"This is why I’m doing everything in my power to safeguard Londoners’ health and my new air quality audits are a strong step towards helping some of the most polluted schools in London identify effective solutions to protect pupils from toxic fumes.

"Alongside my plans to bring forward the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, and extend it along some of our busiest roads, plus new charges for the dirtiest vehicles and greener bus fleets - these measures will start to deliver real change in the long term. Now it is time for government to get a grip on air quality and match my ambition."

Audit recommendations could include:

  • moving school entrances and play areas to reduce exposure to busy roads
  • 'no engine idling' schemes to reduce harmful emissions during the school run
  • looking at the school estate to minimise emissions from boilers, kitchens and other sources
  • changes to local roads, including improved road layouts, restricting the most polluting vehicles round schools and pedestrianisation around school entrances
  • 'green infrastructure' such as ‘barrier bushes’ along busy roads and in playgrounds to ‘block’ out toxic fumes
  • encouraging walking and cycling through competitions, ‘walking buses’ with large groups of pupils walking together on pavements, plus improving cycle and walking routes

The announcement follows Khan issuing the first ‘very high’ air pollution alerts of his mayoralty on Monday and a separate annoucement of £750,000 in funding for his promised London tree-planting programme

Depending on the success of the scheme, this programme may be expanded to cover all schools in London in pollution hot spots. 

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