Southwark Council celebrated Clean Air Day (20 June) by committing to working with all of its schools, in areas with bad air pollution.
The council will support the schools and an external auditor to produce a bespoke roadmap for each location, outlining achievable measures that will help to reduce children’s exposure to polluted air.
Southwark is the first council to announce an air quality audit programme of this scale. It is funding 33 audits, including all council primary schools, in areas where EU air quality limits are not being met. The project will use learning from the Mayor of London’s 2017 audit which included two Southwark schools.
Reducing air pollution and improving health and the environment are amongst the council’s key objectives for the regeneration of Old Kent Road. There are currently 13 schools in the area; all of which will be audited to ensure future developments in the neighbourhood are informed by data and learning on local air quality.
An independent auditor will look at how people travel to school, assess each school’s involvement with the council’s School Travel Plan, and look at the work being done to encourage children to be active, healthy and knowledgeable about sustainable travel.
The auditor will also tour the site and talk to the children and staff, to gain an understanding of the situation and how air quality could be improved.
Air quality data – based on thousands of readings from the council’s monitors over the course of a year – was used to identify all schools in areas exceeding the annual average EU limit for Nitrogen Dioxide. This secured an objective allocation of air quality audits for the schools that are most in need.
Young children, older people and those with respiratory and cardiac conditions are worst affected by poor air quality. In addition, high levels of air pollution are shown to impact on the development of lung capacity in very young children, which can sometimes lead to breathing problems later in life.
Old Kent Road ward councillor, Cllr Richard Livingstone, Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport and the Climate Emergency, said:
“Children and other vulnerable people are our top priority when it comes to cleaning up Southwark’s air and these audits will get directly to the root of the problem in schools which are most in need.
“Our school audits will compliment all the work that is already happening across Southwark, including road closures outside schools, engine idling fines, and help installing green screens and planting. These audits will help to show how emissions could be reduced and children’s exposure to air pollution can be limited, around our worst affected schools.”
Find out more about air quality in Southwark