Beautify Balham has been working alongside Desirée Abrahams from Global Action Plan and Graham Peterson from Greener Jobs Alliance to monitor the air quality in Balham and Tooting.
We were loaned an air quality AM520 monitor in November 2022 and, after calibrating it, we set off in pursuit of hot spots where we thought high particle pollution might be found.
The accepted level of PM 2.5 particulates per cubic square metre is 15mgm (averaged over 24 hours), set by the WHO (World Health Organisation). Action for Clean Air gives a very good definition of what we are measuring and why. They also have free resources for schools and businesses.
Nitrogen Oxide tubes are placed on lampposts and are available free from the council. We have one sited on Bedford Hill near the junction with Hildreth Street Market, which has been installed by Imperial College, so we can access that data.
We started at Bedford Hill Place, where we meet for our monthly litter picks, and headed south going up Bedford Hill. We then cut through Elmfield Road, as we wanted to monitor school streets, and crossed over Balham High Road to Balham Park Road and outside Trinity St. Mary’s School. We then cut up Boundaries Road under the railway bridge towards Chestnut Grove outside the school there. We crossed Endelsham Road into Ramsden Road then crossed the High Road up Bedford Hill to complete our circuit. These are the readings from our findings.
- 10:15 [back of Sainsburys] – 21mgm
- 10:30 [Bedford Hill/Fernley Rd near Balham station] – 23/25mgm
- 10:30 [Elmfield Rd/Ravenstone School] – 17mgm
- 10:31 [Elmfield Rd/Ravenstone School] – 24mgm
- 10:35 [Balham HS in front of restaurant] – 36- 43mgm
- 10:40 Trinity St Mary’s Balham Park Rd] – 16/17mgm
- 10:45 Access Storage /under RR bridge, Boundaries Rd] – 15 – 19mgm
- 10:46 Access Storage/under RR bridge, Boundaries Rd – 36 – 16mgm
- 10:50 [corner Boundaries Rd and Chestnut Grove] – 20mgm
- 10:50 [skip/lorry passes] – 27mgm
- 10:55 [ Endelsham Rd midway-end of road] – 22- 25mgm
- 11:00 [corner Ramsden and Norgrove] – 19mgm
- 11:05 [Balham Library]- 21mgm
- 11:06 [ Waitrose] – 20/22/23/24mgm
- 11:08 [corner Bedford Hill and Balham High Road] – 36- 55- 61- 70mgm
- 11:09 [Bedford Hill Rd] in front of café] – 143-157-167-170mgm
- **Levels of PM2.5 often went higher when we were passing food outlets**
- ** Generally, higher PM2.5 level at junctions**
It would appear that on the whole the main streets around Balham are relatively safe, just a few points above the average, but there were hot spots outside food outlets cooking food, and buses idling at traffic lights or bus stops (even though that are deemed to be eco buses now!)
We want to use this data to encourage the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London (TFL) to allow businesses in Balham High Road to have planters outside their premises, and for TfL to plant more trees to mitigate the effects of polluted air and flooding.
We are in negotiation with the Mayor’s office and TFL to move this forward so hopefully with their support, we will see more greenery in Balham and Tooting in the near future. The Mayor’s office has a scheme ‘Trees for London’ giving £3.1million for tree planting in the capital this summer and they are aiming to plant 1000 new trees in priority areas ‘Trees for Streets’.
The scheme is for residents or businesses to sponsor a tree then the Mayor will sponsor one further tree to match fund it. (They have planted 430,000 trees since 2016 and aim to increase the number of trees in London by 10% by 2050.)
Wandsworth Council has not joined either of these schemes so we will put pressure on them to do so.
This fits perfectly with Beautify Balham’s aims ‘to clean up and green up Balham’.
– Jean Millar and The Beautify Balham Team