Mayor’s new ‘air quality’ audits to protect thousands of school kids

24 January 2017

A day after issuing the first ‘very high’ air pollution alerts of his mayoralty, some of London’s most polluted schools are set to get a major boost from the Mayor of London. As part of the most bold and ambitious plans to tackle air quality of any major city in the world, Sadiq Khan announced funding for 50  ‘air quality’ audits that will identify new hard-hitting measures to protect pupils locally from toxic air. The 50 primary schools are located in areas exceeding legal limits of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in a number of London boroughs, a fact described as ‘shameful’ by the Mayor today.

Under the new scheme, each school will receive a detailed audit, carried out by an experienced transport and environment consultancy, which will review ways to dramatically lower emissions and exposure to pollution in and around the school. The audits will highlight key interventions to reduce exposure and will run alongside a pollution awareness-raising education programme at each school.

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; and

·         '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;

 Children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of poor air quality, with latest City Hall data revealing that 360 primary schools are currently located in areas exceeding legal limits. The Mayor has allocated £250,000 to fund the new audits, which are the latest in a series of strong actions he is taking to tackle air pollution.  Boroughs will then be able to work with schools to implement changes, using part of the record £1billion funding the Mayor has provided to boroughs to support local improvements to the transport network and tackle pollution in line with the Mayor’s Healthy Streets Vision over the next five years.

The Mayor launched the audits today as he met school children from Sir John Cass’s Foundation Primary School (City of London), St Luke’s Church of England Primary School (Tower Hamlets), St George's Cathedral Catholic Primary (Southwark), St Stephen’s Primary School (Richmond) and William Patten Primary School (Hackney) who have worked with Greenpeace to present the Mayor with a joint letter signed by 100 schools in London, which asks him to continue fighting air pollution and protecting school children from toxic air.

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. Yesterday I was forced to issue the first ‘very high’ air pollution alert under my new comprehensive system, 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.”

 Areeba Hamid, clean air campaigner, Greenpeace said: “Air pollution is a blight on London, so it is hugely encouraging to see the Mayor prioritising this issue. Along with these measures, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone will help to clean up the city’s air by phasing out the most polluting vehicles, letting our children breathe easy. But we also need to see action nationally to tackle the impact of diesel fumes on public health. We are hoping that the Mayor will continue raising these issues with government, where, sadly, we are mainly seeing inaction.”

The Mayor is currently reviewing the findings of his second major public consultation that focused on extending the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the North Circular Road and the South Circular Road and proposals for an emission surcharge to the Congestion Charging Zone, which has been dubbed the ‘toxic’ charge that could be brought into action later this year.

Notes to editors

  1. City Hall is working with boroughs to select the 50 primary schools in pollution hot spots that will most benefit from the audits. Depending on the success of the scheme, this programme may be expanded to cover all schools in London in pollution hot spots. Boroughs will have a critical role to play in ensuring action is taken to tackle air pollution at these schools as quickly as possible.