The Forest Hill Society’s “Clean Air for SE23” campaign began last year aiming to raise awareness about the dangers of air pollution and improve air quality.
You may have met us at the Horniman Farmers’ Market where we encouraged people to plant a tree for SE23. We asked you to take away an acorn or conker seed and come back in the spring to plant the sprigs at the Horniman Triangle, to create a green screen next to the playground. At the same time, we raised £120 to plant 120 trees in developing countries through “Just One Tree”, so thank you for your donations. We realised the sprigs would be too small to plant in March (we’re still learning about trees!) and are asking people to keep your plants until November when we will have set up a planting event alongside Street Trees for Living who will be planting six large oak trees and other saplings. The best place for oak and horse chestnut trees is actually at the opposite end of the park to the playground, because of ground conditions, but we hope to get funding to fill in the gaps in the hedge and plant some more suitable saplings in this area. We hope the plants will help to screen the traffic fumes from the busy road to some extent. Watch this space or the Facebook group for news of the November planting event.
Last year we also set up an air quality monitoring programme to look at the levels of pollution in our area and measure particulate matter in the air. Lewisham Council and Kings College Air Quality Network have a useful map of air quality, but their maps are made by modelling data from just a few actual monitors across Lewisham. Their data gives an average across the day and does not account for peaks during rush hour traffic, when children are walking to school.
We are working with Jennifer Gabrys from Cambridge University and Goldsmiths to develop an enhanced monitoring programme. Jennifer has designed a small monitor called a dustbox, which is designed to look like a particle of air pollution. She has already run a successful citizen science research project in Deptford. We identified sites that we think will have bad air quality (mainly along the A205, especially where traffic idles).
We will have monitors at about 10 sites including Horniman Gardens (one by the road and one by the bandstand), Dalmain school, along Brockley Rise and Honor Oak Park, and near Forest Hill station. The monitors will collect data for 2-3 months. Jennifer will calibrate the data against the existing monitoring stations at New Cross and Honor Oak, to identify what pollution is caused by local sources (traffic) and external sources (e.g. pollution that can be blown here from European factories and from Saharan dust).
We hope to use the data to lobby for things like the London Mayor’s Healthy Neighbourhoods scheme, cycle lanes, school streets, air filters in classrooms and more green spaces and trees. We also hope it will strengthen our campaign to reduce car use, something which is also key to Lewisham Council’s climate action plan.
If you would like to find out more or have a little time to spare to help with future campaigning please email cleanairSE23@hotmail.com or see our Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/cleanairSE23.