Air monitoring project shows fall in NO2 pollution in Hampstead

Air qualityAir quality

The amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in Hampstead’s air fell significantly in the six years up to 2022, but remained well above safe levels, according to the results of the Hampstead Neighbourhood Forum’s air quality monitoring project.

The outcome of the project was detailed at the tenth annual general meeting of the Forum, held on 21 March 2023 at the Hampstead Community Centre. In addition, the AGM heard a report on the Forum’s plans to revise the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan. The meeting elected a committee and approved the 2022 accounts as well as the minutes of the 2022 AGM.

View the 2023 AGM draft minutes

Katharina Schauer, co-leader of the air quality project with Francesca Agostini, recalled that the Forum had previously measured nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in November 2015, and had subsequently launched a second project to take readings over a full year. The 2021/2022 project took measurements in 10 locations, with diffusion tubes changed each month.

She thanked all those involved: volunteers who put up and replaced the tubes each, including pupils and teachers from UCS Junior Branch, Devonshire House and Maria Montessori schools. Schauer also thanked donors who funded the project, including the Heath & Hampstead Society; and Camden for their advice.

The measurements showed that NO2 levels were above or close to the UK legal limit in South End Green, Pond Street and Heath Street. They were above the World Health Organisation annual limit in all 10 locations, including at Viaduct Bridge on Hampstead Heath.

Overall, they were highest in January 2022, when they exceeded the UK legal limit, and November 2021. Though NO2 pollution tailed off during the summer months, it remained above the WHO limit throughout the 12 months.

Comparing November 2015 and November 2021, NO2 levels fell by 19%. But the decline was not uniform, and in Pond Street the level actually rose. Schauer said there could be several reasons, including greater use of more fuel-efficient vehicles, including electric cars.

View the AGM slide presentation

Janine Griffis updated the AGM on the Forum’s planned revision of the Hampstead Neighbourhood Plan. The Forum had held a public meeting on 31 January 2023 to launch a consultation on the revision.

Janine Griffis detailed the areas in which the Forum was working on this: principally, to strengthen policies relating to sustainability, energy efficiency and biodiversity. For example, the Plan should support retrofitting existing houses rather than replacing them with new ones. It should support the insertion of clean, renewable energy, including in listed buildings. New builds should not worsen air quality and should be energy-positive.

In line with new legislation, the Plan would support developments that provided 10% net gains in biodiversity. It would build on the biodiversity corridors designated in the existing Plan, developing biodiversity networks that would link the corridors more closely with the Heath. It would support retaining and expanding gardens and trees on the fringes of the Heath.

The Plan would seek to improve water efficiency, to encourage clean transport and to discourage the insertion of flues for wood-burning stoves.

Griffis noted that two sites, while still in the hands of long-time owners, had been designated in Camden’s site allocations list. Camden had indicated that if the Plan sketched a vision for these, this would be taken into account when development plans emerged. Therefore, the Forum would draft vision statements for Queen Mary’s House (including concepts of biodiversity net gain, energy positiveness, affordable housing, retrofit and protecting views and the character area), and the Shepherds Walk postal delivery office. These would be included as part of the Plan.

Alex Nicoll, Forum chair, noted that the aim of the Plan was shifting from one of protecting heritage and limiting damage from development to actively improving the Forum area, contributing positively to the environment and to resources. A section that offered information and guidance on options for energy efficiency could also be included.

Nicoll said the Plan’s revision would proceed through the next stages of drafting, use of consultant experts, public consultation, scrutiny by Camden and an independent examiner, probably followed by a public referendum.

He thanked the management and trustees of the Hampstead Community Centre for allowing the Forum to hold the meeting there.

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