Agenda item

Deep Dive: CR21 Air Quality

Report of the Director of Markets and Consumer Protection.


The Committee received a report of the Director of Markets and Consumer Protection providing Members with a Deep Dive in to CR21 Air Quality.


A Member spoke to thank Officers for a very interesting report. He went on to question what the predicted changes in nitrogen dioxide were due to the roll out of electric vehicles and sought confirmation as to whether this would affect particulates. He also questioned the relative importance of nitrogen dioxide and particulates in terms of health impacts. Finally, he questioned whether there were any figures available on the contribution of things such as plant on building sites and air conditioning units. Officers responded to state that electric vehicles would have a measurable impact, particularly on nitrogen dioxide, and reported that a dramatic reduction had been seen in Beech Street this year since the area had been restricted to zero emission vehicles for example. Members were informed that the impact on nitrogen dioxide would be greater than the particulates given that there were a lot more sources that contributed to particulates and particulate emissions however, that being said, there were some particulate emissions that came from exhausts whilst others were associated with general tyre and break wear. It was therefore reported that, for as long as there were motorised vehicles, there would be some particulate matter associated with these.


In relation to the relative contribution of building plant, Officers reported that the breakdown had previously been approximately 50/50 in terms of emissions from vehicles compared with other sources but that, with vehicles becoming a lot cleaner, they were seeing this relative contribution change and this now translated as approximately 60% of emissions originating from non-transport sources and 40% from vehicles. In terms of health impacts, the Committee were informed that the greatest health impact came from particulate matter as it had been found that very fine levels of particulates were able to get into most organs in the body. There was also a combined effect of both pollutants (nitrogen dioxide and particulates) and an inquest that had taken place into the death of a London child towards the end of last year had confirmed this to be the case.


Another Member stated that when she had first viewed this report at another Committee she had posed a question about the pollution and particulates emitted from the underground and she was aware that this was something that Transport for London were said to be tackling. Officers reported that the Member had made a very good point about the particulates emitted from the vents associated with the underground network created by the movement of the trains. It was reported that TfL were undertaking a lot of work to not only reduce the particulates created from the movement of the tube network but also to monitor this with Imperial College London. It was highlighted that this was something that the City of London Corporation had been aware of for a while but would only be able to pick up in any quantities if measurements were taken right next to the vents which was not done at present.  


Another Member commented that this report was very high level and general across the Square Mile. He therefore questioned whether it was possible to focus in more on specific areas and to seek to have different targets for these in further reports. Officers responded to highlight that the appendix to this report contained a lot of monitoring data that did refer to the whole of the Square Mile but also contained more information in terms of consultations. In terms of different targets for different areas, Officers highlighted that the work delivered around air quality was a statutory function and the main driver was therefore compliance with this and the limit values/targets set for the entire area. It was reported that there was currently no differentiation between residential and business areas. However, in terms of the main residential areas within the City (the Barbican and Golden Lane estates) it was reported that very good levels of air quality had been picked up and Officers were about to embark upon another citizen’s science project with residents which was a repeat of a project undertaken in 2013 where a lot of data provided by residents had indicated that air quality was a problem. A number of recommendations had stemmed from this previous project with a number of these having now been implemented. The forthcoming project would therefore monitor air pollution once more within the community and ascertain what improvements had been made.


A Member questioned whether Officers had any idea how many emergency generators there were in the City and how much of a problem they were in terms of particulates. Secondly, he noted that the report listed a number of actions undertaken recently to mitigate against the risk and that the only individual polluter referenced here was Barts Hospital. He therefore questioned how bad the situation was here and how much this had been able to be reduced. Officers responded to report that most large buildings had emergency generators and that there were therefore a lot in the City which were dealt with as part of the planning process. Data had been sought from the National Grid as to those that were used to ‘balance the grid’ and more frequently than just for emergencies and Officers undertook to share the exact figures on this with the Member outside of the meeting. Whilst it was suggested that this was not a huge problem in the City, it was something that Officers were aware of and had worked with consultants this year to develop best practice guidance and information on ways to manage generators to ensure that their impact upon air quality was managed downwards and that was being rolled out to businesses. Equally, it was recognised that Officers did not necessarily have the controls to deal with emissions and they were therefore attempting to tackle this through the missions Reduction Bill.

Officers summarised by stating that individual generators were not being directly monitored but that they were well aware of the general problem and were trying to tackle this by taking a holistic approach and via things such as additional regulatory powers, best practice guidance and training with facilities managers. With regard to Barts, Officers underlined that the Committee were already aware that there was an issue with the energy centre that had been installed a few years ago on this site. It was reported that Officers had worked with Barts over the course of the past few years who had been very receptive and they were pleased to report that levels of pollution had reduced and were continuing to be monitored. Barts had been issued with a permit to operate this year and Officers were about to work with Barts NHS Trust on additional health-based measures relating to air pollution (subject to securing funding from government).


RESOLVED – That Members note the report.

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