Campaigning on clean air near schools in St George

I and my fellow campaigner Jo Chesterman have been concerned about the air pollution at Summerhill Infant School and Summerhill Academy (Junior) School, situated just past the end of Church Road in St George. Jo has children at both schools, and I have a granddaughter at the infants’ school. My children attended there, but now the main Clouds Hill Road is a showcase bus route, with heavy lorries and commuter traffic, much of which is of course diesel.

There was a meeting in July involving the heads of both schools, an air quality council officer and local councillors Asher Craig and Steve Pearce, and our local community police officer.

Jo and I asked for site-specific real-time monitoring, so we could know exactly how bad the air quality is near these young children. The air quality officer’s view was that there was already monitoring nearby in Church Road, and it was well known that nitrous dioxide air pollution frequently exceeded legal limits. He mentioned diffusion monitoring tubes which could not provide information for specific times so the levels could not be related to when the children are present. The officer was not sure if the schools came within the AQMA (it seems to be on the border).

However a very helpful suggestion was made by the police officer, who said she was very concerned about the pollution which she personally was aware of as she suffers from asthma. She said her breathing had been affected when she spent half an hour monitoring the traffic at this point during the morning school run. Her suggestion was a traffic order to make the road feeding into the main road one way. The councillors and police said they would look into this with Traffic Management.

Since this meeting we have discovered that there are 107 diffusion tubes situated in Bristol, but in addition there are 6 real-time monitors giving continuous live data, including one at Parson Street School. There is also an electric vehicle operated by BCC which monitors environmental air quality. We would hope to ask again about real-time monitoring at the Summerhill schools, especially as we now have the results from diffusion tubes from Friends of the Earth. These show higher pollution levels than for Church Road, “either above or worryingly close” to the legal limit of 40µg/m3. As this monitoring is continuous, these average readings (though bad enough) must be lower than at peak traffic times when the children are present.

The government has recently published its proposals to address air pollution over time. Meanwhile alleviation by local councils is suggested by using traffic management to tackle “hotspots”. Jo and I think that site specific monitoring, for locations which are suspected of having high pollution levels and where there are particularly vulnerable populations like schools, would be a useful way forward. These can be more easily demonstrated by real-time monitoring, in the exact locations, which could be used as evidence for traffic management. This information would also be useful in engaging more parents to take action.

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