Merton and Richmond councils join forces to tackle air quality

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The London Boroughs of Merton and Richmond upon Thames operate a joint Regulatory Services Partnership (RSP), which works across the various disciplines of environmental and air quality is one of their key priorities.

Studies have shown that around 10,000 deaths are caused each year in London due to long-term exposure to air pollution. Air quality is currently a mayoral priority and the RSP is committed to tackle the issue of air pollution in their corner of South-West London to ensure the health and wellbeing of local residents, as well as visitors to the two boroughs. 

Air Pollution in Merton and Richmond, as with many local authorities in London, have historically shown exceedances of NOx along its main corridors and the same remains today. 

The RSP is currently undertaking a number of projects to tackle the effects of air pollution and one good example is examining the impact on children in some of the boroughs’ schools which are most susceptible to poor air quality. 

Research is currently underway in Richmond at schools in areas of high pollution to determine the particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen oxides (NO and NO2) levels which children are exposed to on a regular basis in key locations, including their classrooms, playgrounds and along their routes to school. 

The research is being conducted in collaboration with the London Sustainability Exchange and a student from University College London. Together they have been conducting tests at various times of day including drop-off and pick-up times to measure the extent children are exposed to air pollution when attending school. These tests will lead to better understanding and consequently, a series of recommendations will be proposed. 

These recommendations will be tailored to the specific problems faced by individual schools but may include general measures, such as relocating entrances, planting greenery in targeted locations, or encouraging walking and preventing parents from idling their engines while waiting outside the schools. 

Although diesel cars can produce low carbon dioxide emissions, today it is better understood that they produce disproportionately high emissions of local air quality pollutants such as nitrogen dioxides. 

In response, Merton Council has introduced a Diesel Parking Surcharge to encourage residents to try and move away from more polluting vehicles. As part of introducing this measure, Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) worked hard to produce a clear and bespoke justification for this charge to address the unique problem in Merton. 

Since April 2017 when the surcharge became operational, EHPs have been key in delivering this project at every stage of implementation, which will be complemented by a two-year study into the effectiveness and impact of the scheme 

The RSP is also leading on a London-wide project aimed at reducing emissions from construction site equipment which now includes 15 London boroughs. 

The project aims to deliver the Mayor of London’s ambition to reduce construction emissions from Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM). As part of the project, officers are on site working to help clean up London’s construction industry. 

This is a three-year project, which is funded by the Mayor’s Air Quality Fund and being conducted across fifteen London boroughs 

Jason Andrews, Pollution Team Manager for the RSP, said: “In London we have seen the increase in concern over air quality which is now considered a public health emergency. 

“Despite reductions in staffing over the past few years, local authorities need to be creative and work with partners to help deliver real changes in air quality. We also need to be mindful of the projects around us and see how we can complement and resource joint initiatives.”   


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