London planners seek pollution solution as city development gathers momentum

Construction continues apace in London as the city strives to house a rapidly growing population and gears up for the 2012 Olympics but development means pollution and the authorities have decided it's time to take steps to keep dust down and air quality up.

The Mayor’s office has teamed up with the boroughs to produce a guide for planning departments outlining how conditions can be put on would-be developments before planning permission is granted which can ensure that pollution is kept to a minimum during construction.

The Best Practice Guidance focuses on reducing particulate levels and emissions of gases that affect air quality such as nitrogen dioxide.

While most of the dust particles that are created by building work are too large to be inhaled deep into the lungs, and therefore not a major health risk, the industry also produces a significant quantity of finer particulate matter from diesel generators and on-site plant.

The thicker dust can also prove an environmental annoyance as it coats windows and windscreens of vehicles parked close to the development.

It is estimated that in 2005 there were approximately 1000 accelerated deaths and 1000 extra respiratory hospital admissions because of pollution from particulates (PM10), making cutting these emissions crucial to improve both the health of Londoners as well as the environment.

“With the 2012 games and regeneration throughout the Thames Gateway, London will see decades of construction,” said Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London.

“It is therefore essential that we do all we can to reduce these particulate emissions, which are harmful to health and exacerbate respiratory conditions. We are already working hard to tackle harmful particulates including seeking to designate the capital a transport Low Emission Zone.”

Councillor Merrick Cockell, chairman of London Councils, said: ‘This best practice guidance has been developed in recognition of the impact significant developments can have on Londoners’ air quality.

“Concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and fine particles are predicted to exceed their safe levels across most of London. The guide will assist borough planning officers to incorporate appropriate conditions into planning permissions and help developers in understanding what might be expected of them by boroughs.”

Acting CEO of the National Society for Clean Air and Environmental Protection (NSCA), Philip Mulligan, added: “The NSCA recognises the Mayor’s initiative in launching these notes, aimed at further protecting the health of Londoners, and hopes that other cities in the UK will follow London’s lead.”

Sam Bond

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