Putney High Street pollution falling as council approves new wave of air quality measures

Published: Thursday 4th August 16

New monitoring data has confirmed an 80 per cent fall in nitrogen dioxide pollution episodes on Putney High Street as Wandsworth Council approves a new wave of projects and enforcement powers to help improve air quality borough-wide.

Councillors have welcomed the improving situation on the high street while stressing there is still a long way to go before air quality levels reach a safe and acceptable level.

More than 100 buses per hour pass through the narrow high street at peak times.

The number of times the hourly nitrogen dioxide limit was breached on the high street’s building façade monitoring station has now fallen from 1726 in 2012, to 336 in 2015.

The levels of fine particles (PM10) have remained within EU limits since testing began in 2009.

A report by King’s College London confirms that Putney High Street has now seen a bigger improvement in air quality than anywhere else in London and the council is looking to roll out the approach piloted here to other parts of the borough.

The fall in pollution coincides with the introduction of cleaner buses along the street which were put into service after the council’s unique research project exposed the bus fleet as the primary source of nitrogen dioxide build ups. At peak times more than 100 buses use this relatively narrow road every hour.   

Improvements to the street layout and traffic signals have also been made to ease queuing and restrictions on delivery vehicles stopping to unload have also been introduced to reduce congestion further.

Deputy council leader Jonathan Cook said: “We’ve made good progress on Putney High Street but now is the time to intensify our efforts here and in other pollution hotspots. That’s why we have approved a series of new council-led initiatives and we want TfL and the new Mayor of London to work with us on a series of new partnership interventions like establishing Putney as London’s first ‘clean bus corridor’ used exclusively by ultra low emission buses including hydrogen powered models.  

“The council has installed the city’s most sophisticated and comprehensive pollution and traffic monitoring system on this high street so there is no better place to trial new measures and prove they can work. It will be some time before the plans for an Ultra Low Emission Zone are finalised and we are committed to maintaining the momentum we’ve made in Putney.”

New pollution reduction measures approved by the council include:

  • The council’s civil enforcement officers are to be granted new powers to fine drivers for vehicle idling. These powers can apply to bus, taxi, private hire and commercial drivers, as well as members of the public.
  • Expanding the council’s air quality awareness campaign, including the creation of a new Air Quality Champions team made up of trained community volunteers.
  • Working with other London boroughs and Kings College London through the London Low Emission Construction Partnership to reduce the air quality impacts from building work.
  • A new partnership with Southwark, Croydon and Lambeth councils has been set up to reduce the number of deliveries serving the authorities and to examine the case for creating a freight consolidation centre.

These new measures will strengthen the wide ranging programme of air quality projects already underway across Wandsworth, which includes:

  • The installation of new air quality monitoring stations (like the ones in Putney) in Tooting, and Clapham Junction to further assess air quality in these areas.
  • A ban on day-time deliveries on Putney High Street.
  • A rolling programme of environmental theatre productions in local schools to teach children how their travel choices affect air quality.
  • Helping schools develop ‘school travel plans’ which reduce the number of cars used on the school run through initiatives like 'walking buses' and car pools.
  • Providing free vehicle emission checks in public places like supermarket car parks. The popular programme has offered residents the chance to check if their car will pass its next MOT and raise awareness about harmful vehicle emissions.
  • Championing car clubs which dramatically reduce total vehicle use and take older, more polluting cars off the road. Wandsworth now has the highest car club membership in London.
  • Free bike safety lessons for children and adults to give more residents the confidence and skills they need to start cycling.
  • 'Dr Bike' cycle surgeries promote cycling and teach residents basic maintenance skills.
  • Electric vehicle charging points have been installed in key locations which enable residents to switch over to low emission electric vehicles.
  • A free airTEXT messaging service warns residents when high pollution levels are forecast.
  • The council promotes walking through a range of public health campaigns and smarter travel awareness schemes.
  • A series of investment schemes have made the borough's town centres more pedestrian friendly including projects in Clapham Junction, Southfields, Putney and Earlsfield.
  • Lobbying for higher capacity rail, bus, riverbus and tube services so more residents can switch from cars to public transport.
  • The council's Smarter Driving campaign encourages drivers to take simple steps to reduce their emissions like inflating tires.

Read the full report on new air quality measures on the council’s website or visit www.wandsworth.gov.uk/airquality for more information

Notes to editors  

  • In 2009 Wandsworth Council installed its first air quality monitoring station on Putney High Street to develop an evidence base around the high street’s suspected  pollution issue.
  • The readings on Putney High Street show that nitrogen dioxide levels regularly breeched EU limits while levels of fine particles (PM10) are within EU limits.
  • In 2011 the council installed a combination of automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras and video traffic counts on the street. The data collected was cross referenced with air quality readings to determine the exhaust emissions from each vehicle type for each hour of the day.
  • This unique study identified London buses as a major contributor to emissions of nitrogen dioxide.
  • In 2012 Wandsworth published this unique evidence base and worked with the Putney Society to lobby the Mayor and TfL for new investment in buses running down Putney High Street.
  • In October 2012 the Mayor and TfL started to upgrade the Putney fleet
  • In July 2014 a report by King’s College London confirmed pollution levels dropped as a result of the investment in green bus technology.
  • Following further interventions by the council and Mayor of London, King’s College London confirmed pollution level have dropped by more than anywhere else in London.

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Recent comments

It's of concern that more and more van deliveries are made to homes thanks to internet shopping and I expect this source of pollution will increase. I myself have ordered things like a single paintbrush online and had it delivered to my door. Ridiculous really. And there are now 25,000 Uber drivers in London who didn't exist 4 years ago.

16 August 2016