Grenfell Tower environment questions

Last week’s tragedy at Grenfell Tower has irrevocably scarred North Kensington. Without weighing in on the social and political questions arising from this event, this blog takes a brief look at some environmental elements that Green Westway feels are important.

Air pollution monitoring

Air pollution is a major cause for concern. The potential levels of asbestos and dioxins relating to the Grenfell Tower debris, not to mention the impact of any future dismantling, mean that the local air quality requires immediate monitoring.

While a recent Kings College London report derived from routine ambient monitoring did not pick anything unusual up during the blaze (the potential groundings in Brent that can be in contextualised here ), this does not account for asbestos, dioxins, or other non-traffic noxious emissions that could have emanated from the fire.

After an email exchange with Kings College, we were put in touch with BRE, who might be able to collect samples to for analysis in a specialist laboratory, and they have subsequently passed our query on to Public Health England – we have not yet received a response.

Current Council recommendations are here – https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/newsroom/all-council-statements/public-health-advice-following-grenfell-tower-fire

If anyone can help monitor please be in touch

Indoor air quality

The concern about air pollution will be most strongly felt by those living immediately around the Tower – Lancaster West Estate, Silchester Estate, Bramley House, and the surrounding roads. Indoor air quality in these homes could be compromised by the Tower debris.

Although planting is no silver bullet for reducing air pollution, local people need to have access to plants that can help mitigate it. We are still awaiting responses from local plant nurseries to help. In the interim we propose a plant giveaway for these homes, if you can help provide plants (from this NASA research list), please be in touch.

Public realm planting 

In the medium to long term we feel that there is a need promote planting around the site as a natural memorial to the tragedy that can improve local health and quality of life in the long term. We hope to plant one tree for every flat in the tower around the area, and have been in touch with a number of organisations to try to push this forward. Please be in touch if you can help.

 

W10 car free day, 0km Portobello mushrooms, carnival update

Hello all from beneath the A40 flyover, here’s a quick autumn update from Green Westway –

1. W10 Car free day

With the highly publicised success of Paris car free days, why not create temporary glimpses of a car free future in W10 / W11? Green Westway is aiming to establish a regular local car free day. The scope of this remains to be defined, it could be a pledge from businesses and schools to not use cars for one day, or it could be a/(some) traffic free street(s) for a set amount of time.

1938 Ladbroke Grove

Traffic free Ladbroke Grove in 1938 from rbkclocalstudies.wordpress.com

Reducing car use is the only way for us to improve air quality and health, and in time we need to extend cycle routes and bike sharing opportunities north of the Westway (where they are currently lacking) to support long-term alternatives to car use. If you want to help make this a reality – get in touch greenwestway@gmail.com

In other air news, TfL and the Mayor have launched a consultation on London air quality, proposals include the implementation of an Emissions Surcharge, and a call for ideas to improving the Ultra Low Emission Zone, that is being brought forward to 2019. Anyone interested should feedback here before 18 December: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/environment/air-quality-consultation-phase-2?cid=airquality-consultation

2. 0km Portobello mushrooms

Have you ever wondered what happens to coffee rinds used by our local shops? Could coffee from local cafes be collected to grow portobello mushrooms that are then sold on the market? Following our 0km blog, we are looking into starting a collection operation to support growing portobello mushrooms for Portobello Road. If anyone knows a space for growing, has capacity to collect, or wants to help make this a reality, get in touch – greenwestway@gmail.com

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image from plantcaretoday.com

3. Carnival and heritage

Since the Notting Hill Carnival finished, worrying noises seem to be pushing for its displacement – http://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/mp-starts-bid-to-get-carnival-moved-out-of-notting-hill-a3366281.html

Our petition to get the Westway recognised as a part of UNESCO World Heritage gathered over 1,000 signatures in a couple of weeks. Unfortunately since then, it has come to light that the UK is not a signatory to the UNESCO’s intangible cultures article. This means that for Carnival to become protected by the UN it would require the British government to become a signature to the law first. With the looming post-Brexit future around the corner, we need to safeguard our culture by petitioning the government to become a signatory and for the carnival to become the first British intangible culture that is protected by UNESCO for its contribution to world culture. At the same time it will be important to develop a clear social and economic case for the carnival remaining in the streets of Notting Hill. If anyone has any ideas, or wants to support this, please get in touch greenwestway@gmail.com

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Early carnival image from rockins.co.uk

Thanks for reading if you got this far! Get in touch on twitter @greenwestway or via email listed above.

Notting Hill Carnival should be protected As UNESCO Heritage

imageIn this time of increasing tension brought about by the recent European referendum, it is disheartening to read that the local area’s most powerful response to sectarianism – the Notting Hill Carnival – is under threat of displacement.

In response, Green Westway is proposing that the Notting Hill Carnival becomes recognised in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in order to increase the scope for protecting this important London, British, and global celebration. Green Westway has previously written about enhancing the environmentally-friendliness of the event, but as a campaign centred on inclusive local sustainability – i.e. promoting environmental, economic, and social integrity – safeguarding the carnival’s future as a festival in the streets of Notting Hill rather than in a local park is important.

The carnival was born in local social movements from the burning ambers of hatred and racism. Over the years, its marriage of Caribbean culture to West London streets has turned this situation on its head and momentary carnival experiences have led to lasting social unity, which as recent days have shown us, should certainly not be taken for granted.

Its location in the streets is not accidental. As a social movement at heart, the revelry in Notting Hill’s streets represents normality being suspended and new behaviours emerging. Inhabiting the streets in this different way recreates space and enables people to think differently and challenge their realities. In this way the carnival has become a symbol of change and multiculturalism in the UK that deserves protection.

Pledge your support to establishing Notting Hill Carnival as the UK’s first UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by signing this petition to be presented to local MP Victoria Borwick- https://www.change.org/p/victoria-borwick-mp-notting-hill-carnival-should-become-recognised-as-unesco-heritage?recruiter=66069807&utm_source=petitions_show_components_action_panel_wrapper&utm_medium=copylink

We hope that we she will raise this in parliamen, and at the same time we will start exploring our options with UNESCO.

Read more about UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage here: http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/home

Find out more about carnival here: http://thenottinghillcarnival.com

Sketching a new 0km Westway Trust

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Imagine if Portobello stalls sold locally produced food

North Kensington is a place of contrasts. In recent weeks, while one residents association celebrated a successful referendum on a neighbourhood plan, less than a couple of metres away another group of people were left pondering a potential wholesale redevelopment of their area. One group is taking ownership of their future, while the other is losing it. Apparently there is no Yin without Yang.

The two areas in question – Silchester and St Quintin– are split by the great symbol of local unity and division, the Westway. And yet, the Trust that administers the community land beneath the flyover was noticeable only in its invisibility in both processes.

The Trust appears to be learning from the fiasco of its Destination Westway 2030 unveiling to tread more carefully around those it’s meant to serve. It’s trying to increasingly involve local people in its initiatives to avoid the calamitous lack of consultation that led to the inspiration for a shopping centre-style design to replace the heart of Portobello market. Although the ominous reframing of walking as ‘footfall’ in their latest community workshops for Thorpe Close, perhaps indicates a certain continuity in its strategic thinking.

But can the Trust reconnect with people beyond throwing a few stickies onto a board? Could this organisation build on its work in the local area to reconnect with the communities that pushed for it to exist in the first place? How can it adapt and respond to complexity of the changing environment around it? To both support those creating a neighbourhood plan, and those feeling vulnerable about the future?

Green Westway proposes a new 0 KM vision for the Trust. This is no silver bullet that will transform the organisation overnight, but it could be an operational framework that becomes conducive to better supporting local networks. The last vision’s mission was become ‘premier destination’, but 0 KM aims to firstly consolidate the Westway as a place, and in so doing returning it to its founding principles.

A 0 KM approach is one in which activities occur in the same area in which they are created. This can cover food to clothing, and music to jobs, and is intended to reduce costs and the impact on the environment. Prioritising the Westway as an opportunity space for local needs first, could support surrounding communities from the changing and often difficult situations that present themselves. Here are three suggestions to get a 0KM Westway up and running:

0KM INDOOR FARM

Imagine if Portobello Market sold locally produced mushrooms, salad, fish, and herbs. Well, as Grow Up Farms and Zero Carbon Food already show, it’s possible to produce fresh, pesticide free food in confined London spaces without the sun using aquaponic and vertical farming techniques. These reduce the carbon footprint needed for crop production, diminishes the water used, and could become a great way to reconnect local people to their food chains, not to mention to create local jobs.

0KM ENERGY

Imagine if electricity generated for uses in the Westway was locally generated and could turn a profit for local people. Brixton Energy shows how community-owned energy production can introduce an element of stability for people in a context of changing energy prices.

0KM CURRENCY

The spread of two competing supermarket chains across Notting Hill, including one under the Westway, act as extractors of local money, and often come at the expense of local shops. Imagine if money could help local independent businesses. A local currency like the Bristol Pound can help weave the local economy back together, making us more likely to support local businesses. George Ferguson, the local mayor takes his whole salary in Bristol Pounds, if a similar scheme was run around the Westway, could Trust staff be paid in the local currency to show their dedication to the local economy?

The 0KM concept could be applied to other things as well. Music maybe, how could the local area better support local emerging artists such AJ Tracey, or the next Clash? What other things could become 0KM?

Crucially the idea of 0KM is one that envisions a place to support its local social, cultural, environmental, and economic networks. Could 0KM could help people living and working, around the Westway – from St Quintin to Silchester?  What are your thoughts? Let us know at greenwestway@gmail.com

 

Campaign update …

So, in spite of blog absence, the Green Westway campaign has recorded two significant achievenments in recent months.

  • The Westway Trust have reversed their position and fulfilled our demands to install green screens to separate the football pitches affected by the pollution we uncovered emanating from the sliproad to the flyover.
  • Blue Green Dream have been brought on board to the Old Oak redevelopment project following our introduction of them to the Hammersmith Council’s Cabinet Member for Environment, Transport & Residents Services.

Good news, but still lot’s to do… We will follow up on these two bits of news in the coming weeks!

AirSensa in Schools initiative launched: free #airpollution monitoring

The Green Westway campaign launched the ‘AirSensa in Schools’ initiative today to install free air pollution monitors for education providers in the vicinity of A40 elevated section in London.

The pioneering AirSensa monitors were developed by the non-profit organisation Change London who are making them freely available. AirSensas will enable participating schools to access information regarding the air quality in their surrounding environment in real time. A simple computer programme will show readings of both nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and particulate matter from PM1-PM2.5, detailing the levels down to the minute.

Marco Picardi from Green Westway said, ‘Change London’s transformative device will give schools unprecedented access to information that was previously invisible, and could be an important step in creating a more sustainable future.’

‘Schools will be able to be alerted to the state of their immediate micro-environment, which could help determine when it’s unsafe to play outside, build evidence to support the creation of mitigating initiatives, and most importantly support the engagement of children in their environments.’

The monitors are available freely for any school in London, by filling out the following form-http://storrm.com/deliver_change/register/school_contact/

FullSizeRenderWestway Air pollution

Air pollution is one the Westway’s least welcome local impacts. It is linked to respiratory problems, brain development issues, heart disease, and even damage to the nervous system and organs such as liver, or kidneys. As uncovered by Green Westway’s month-long probe with Mapping for Change in the summer of 2014 NO2 levels are so high that they breach the EU’s limits in several points in North Kensington.

Local education establishments

Green Westway is targeting the following educational and youth institutes in Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, and City of Westminster:

Burlington Danes Academy, Latymer Upper playing fields, St Anne’s Nursery School and Children Centre, Oxford Gardens Primary School, Pupil Parent Partnership, Bassett House School, KidsUnlimited, Harrow Club, Rugby Portobello Trust, 1st Georgian supplementary school, Kensington Aldridge Academy, St Francis primary school, Avondale Park Primary School, St Anne’s nursery school, Ainsworth nursery school, bevington primary school, St Clement & St James C Of E Primary School, London, Notting Hill Preparatory School, Chepstow House School,Le Petit Ecole Francais, Sion Manning Secondary School, St Charles Catholic Sixth Form College, Barbly Primary School, Colville Primary School, St Peters Church of England Primary School, Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee School, Queens Park Primary School, Kensington and Chelsea College Wornington Centre, Bevington Primary School, Instituto Espanol, St Thomas Church of England Primary School, Westminster Academy, Our Lady of Dolours RC School, Edward Willson Primary School, Cet Primary School Westminster, City of Westminster College, Clifton Nurseries, Thomas Jeffries primary school.

Please send a note to the email at the bottom if a local school has been overlooked.

Green Westway Campaign 

Green Westway is a campaign founded to challenge the inevitability of a polluting Westway. It aims to promote sustainable initiatives along the Westway route and engage people in their local environments.

For more information please email: greenwestway@gmail.com

Latimer Road Pollution Study

Over the summer together with a coalition of community groups, Green Westway conducted a citizen-lead air pollution monitoring project around Latimer Road Station funded by the social enterprise Mapping for Change based out of University College London (UCL).

Between 2 July and 30 July 2014, several diffusion tubes were placed in various sites around a study area that stretched from Oxford Gardens in the north to Treadgold Street in the south, the West Cross Route in the west and St Marks Close in the east. At the end of the study period, the diffusion tubes were sent to UCL laboratories for analysis of the concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air.

Concentrating on residential and leisure spaces, the results returned saw five locations in breach of EU air quality standards. These were:

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  1. Maxilla Park – (43.22 µg/m3 [micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre])
  2. The junction of Cambridge Gardens and St Marks Road – (51.23 µg/m3)
  3. The entrance to Bramleys Big Adventure off Bramley Road – (41.14 µg/m3)
  4. The horse riding track beneath the Westway – (41.60 µg/m3)
  5. The astroturf football pitches by the West Cross Route ramp onto the flyover – (52.47 µg/m3)

In 2008, the EU’s air pollution directive established limits on the the levels of air-borne nitrogen dioxide contaminants at 40.00 µg/m3. According to the US Environment Protection Agency the effects of high nitrogen dioxide in the air can be problematic for health as it can “irritate the lungs and lower resistance to respiratory infections such as influenza. The effects of short-term exposure are still unclear, but continued or frequent exposure to concentrations that are typically much higher than those normally found in the ambient air may cause increased incidence of acute respiratory illness in children.”

With high numbers of children using at least four of the spaces identified as in breach of EU safety standards for NO2 concentrations, this is cause for some alarm. Private diesel vehicles and load bearing diesel lorries are disproportionately responsible for these emissions, and as these sites are clustered around one of London’s most important thoroughfares, the Westway, it is unsurprising that these locations experience dangerous levels of NO2. The problem of local NO2 emissions is compounded by findings from Public Health England earlier this year that suggest Kensington and Chelsea has the highest pollution levels of any local authority in the UK. The Guardian reported that more than “1 in 12 of all deaths in the borough attributable to tiny particles of soot largely emitted by diesel engines.”

It is reasonable to assume that the projected developments in the White City Opportunity Area, adjacent to the study area, may increase the burden of local emissions. Lorries being used to transport building materials could further pressurise the already strained air quality (over a quarter of the remaining diffusion tubes picked up readings of 37 µg/m3 or higher) and the large-scale residential complexes may also lead to a local increase in private vehicles, which could in turn worsen health outcomes.

In this context, Green Westway now wants to work with all local stakeholders to explore a series of measures to reduce the exposure of these spaces to pollution. Through this we want to campaign for:

  • A reduction of vehicle speed on the West Cross Route and Westway, as well as the ramps that connect them
    • To reduce emissions, lower speeds have been found to do this – http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/transport/speed-limits
  • A new Overground Westway Station on the West London line beneath the elevated roundabout 
    • To incentivise public transport use, especially in response to the concentration of new residents in the White City Opportunity Area, a shift to public transport can reduce pollution – https://www.itdp.org/itdp-releases-new-study-on-climate-change-ahead-of-un-climate-summit/
  • Further exploration of the feasibility of green walls to separate exposed spaces from busy roads
    • To mitigate air pollution, under certain conditions these have been shown to reduce NO2 and particulate matter (PM) concentrations by 30% – http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22663154
  • Further air quality monitoring to verify the results of this study
    • To understand PM concentrations in the area that were not covered in the study, and keep the public informed on pollution issues. Apart from local people’s right to know how polluted their area is, a localisation of people’s understandings within their contexts can be effective in changing behaviours – http://www.des.ucdavis.edu/faculty/handy/ESP178/Understanding_of_air_pollution.pdf

Green Westway hopes to contribute to the coordination of activities between local people, the Council, Imperial College, Westway Development Trust, and Transport for London, to ensure the local environment can be improved expediently. With a new Mayor’s Air Quality Fund opening in the next financial year, we hope to rally all stakeholders to ensure that local people can see the benefit of a fund designed to tackle the specific issues raised in this study.

For a full breakdown of the results, download the spreadsheet here.