One of the justifications given for the “Healthy Neighbourhoods” schemes in Lee Green and Lewisham is that it will cut air pollution. It has even been suggested that it will contribute to saving the world from climate change (Lewisham Council has declared a “climate emergency”) when in reality any reduction in CO2 emissions in the UK will have negligible impact on total world emissions. The UK only produces 1% of CO2 emissions with China and the US being by far the biggest producers. That’s even assuming that CO2 is the major determinant of climate change which many people do not accept.
But the argument goes that removing vehicles from the roads of Lee Green will reduce atmospheric pollution significantly. The reality is very different. Let’s look at the facts.
A recent publication by Lewisham Council said “Domestic gas and electricity accounted for more than half of the boroughs carbon emissions”. Most domestic heating and that for offices, shops and schools is gas central heating which are major sources. In reality diesel and petrol cars contribute only 12% and 6% respectively of all emissions in London and they are falling rapidly – see our full report on the subject here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/_files/ugd/8ec181_ab00306f347f4046b6a950cdcaa2cdc6.pdf . There are many other sources such as cooking, wood burning stoves and industrial processes apart from emissions from larger vehicles such as HGVs which are not present on most roads in Lee Green due to width and other restrictions.
There is also a very busy train line that runs through the area via Hither Green station which undoubtedly contributes to particulate pollution. The whole area is also covered by speed humps on all the minor roads which is well known to increase air pollution very substantially – see https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2016/06/13/speed-humps-and-air-pollution/ for details.
Air pollution in Lewisham has probably increased in recent years because of the growing population and “densification” of the borough. More people means more emissions of all kinds because human activity generates them. Cutting out road vehicles alone will not reduce them significantly and the proposed scheme will not reduce vehicle numbers – residents who own cars will just be taking longer routes to go anywhere thus generating more emissions to offset the small numbers who choose to walk or cycle more.
The proposals for Healthy Neighbourhoods in Lee Green and Lewisham will have negligible impact on air pollution or CO2 emissions and might actually increase them, particularly on certain roads. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn. If the Council really wanted to reduce air pollution, they would take other steps and adopt other policies.
I have asked Lewisham Council for the data to substantiate their claims about the impact of the Healthy Neighbourhood proposals and the current air pollution sources but have yet to receive an answer.
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