Air pollution in central Croydon reaches ‘dangerous’ levels

Deadly air pollution close to Croydon town centre is reaching levels almost double the legal limits, in a borough where the Labour council set out its ambition “to be the cleanest and greenest in London” when elected in 2014.

Shape of things to come: the plans for Westfield could make queuing in the underpass routine

Air pollution in central Croydon is already breaking European legal limits

That’s the findings of a snapshot scientific test conducted by Inside Croydon together with Friends of the Earth at the end of 2016.

Our tests found that on one road  – which straddles two borough wards and the constituencies of Croydon Central and Croydon South – levels of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) for a two-week period reached 70.5µg/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre). The European Union has a legal mean annual limit for NO2 at 40µg/m3.

Yet this test was not conducted on one of the busy six-lane urban motorways which bisect Croydon, or on the notoriously noxious Purley Way – where council officials maintain pollution is not an issue for the health of primary-aged children, but then spend millions of public money in building what is effectively a hermetically sealed school.

Our test was conducted from November 5 to 19 and was carried out on a residential street, Southbridge Road, which runs from close to the Flyover to South End. The testing site is less than a mile from the site of the Whitgift Centre, where Westfield wants to build a car-friendly £1.4billion supermall, and the road – which marks the boundary between Fairfield and Waddon wards – is also close to the site of the Beddington Lane incinerator, which will soon be pumping out even more pollutants into the local atmosphere.

Patronage: Tony Newman appears reluctant to meet the public lately

Tony Newman: has done nothing to reduce air pollution in Croydon

In 2014, Tony Newman and his Labour colleagues were handed control of Croydon Town Hall on a manifesto promise to “… improve our local environment and make Croydon a more pleasant place in which to live, work, shop and visit”.

“Our goal is to make Croydon the cleanest and greenest borough in London,” Newman’s manifesto said.

But almost three years later, and air pollution in Croydon is, if anything, worsening, and Newman and his Labour group has done nothing except make plans to encourage more traffic on to our roads to visit Westfield and to support the South London Waste Partnership’s commissioning of the Beddington Lane incinerator.

Now while Inside Croydon‘s monitoring test can only be regarded as a “snapshot” of the levels of air pollution in the town centre, the figures are consistent with the findings from the two official air monitoring stations – at George Street and on the Purley Way – where there has been no noticeable reduction in pollution levels for years, even though the city-wide authority, Transport for London, may have “tweaked” the measure of noxious air at George Street by having the station shutdown and re-sited over a period of several months.

“We do know that most areas of the UK are currently failing to meet legal limits set by the EU. And that short-term and long-term exposure to NO2 can have significant negative health effects,” Friends of the Earth said.

“Cancer, heart disease and asthma have all been linked to poor air quality, and it’s usually the most vulnerable in society, like children, who are at the most risk.”

NO2, from vehicle emissions, is not the only measurable pollutant in the air. A report in the Evening Standard just before Christmas found dangerous levels of particulate pollution at sites across London, leading to one respected academic to state that “… local councils and the Government have taken their eye off the ball in terms of meeting legal limits for dangerous airborne particles”.

After seeing our figures for NO2 pollution, Jenny Bates, a Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner, told Inside Croydon: “Air pollution in some parts of Croydon is illegally high with serious health risks for local people.

“Children exposed to dangerously dirty air risk suffering from impaired lung development and respiratory problems for life.

“Road traffic is the biggest problem for air pollution, with diesels the worst of all.

“Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, must expand the Ultra Low Emissions Zone across the whole of the capital, not just inner London, and plan to phase out diesel vehicles altogether, as well as giving people better alternatives to driving.”

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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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2 Responses to Air pollution in central Croydon reaches ‘dangerous’ levels

  1. I am posting this on “Dementia Day” on the front pages of many newspapers!

    The research indicating this link and an even more important one,to children’s cognitive and emotional disorders,has been growing for 20 years now,at least.


    It has been the continuing unholy alliance between government agencies and the all powerful car lobby.It also underlies the inept.incompetent and corrupted stance of many local authorities.They have a moral duty to measure accurately, act protectively and not put schools next to polluted roads. Very few do.
    It’s time voters held them to account….the issues are very serious indeed…scientifically illiterate councillors are taking their voters for fools.

  2. Lewis White says:

    Southbridge Road must be one of the the busiest, most traffic-choked road in Croydon, and is a very confined space, without any openness to the wind, so pollution must build up here. I hope that Britain adopts electric and hydrogen powered vehicles as quickly as possible, as this is the only realistic chance for better air for residents of this street, short of banning through traffic.

    Our love affair with the car seems slightly reduced compared with 20 years ago, but sadly, I can’t see Southbridge Road being a place where people go to take the air unless government does something really big to incentivise us, the car using public, to change from petrol and diesel to cleaner fueling.

    The leaves of street trees (the bigger the better) suck up an amazing amount of dust and polluting gasses, but there is no space in Southbridge Road for trees. As a general point, there are hundreds of streets in NW and N Croydon where there are few or no street trees at all, so, in these areas, we start off without the “bulk greenery” needed to reduce pollution from the tens of thousands of cars passing through each day. My guess, based on my own experience of other boroughs, is that only some of these roads would be plantable, as in most cases, there are underground services in the kerbside areas of the footways where trees are planted,

    It would have been better if the Croydon Borough Engineers back in the1950’s had demolished streets to make a continuous tree-planted dual carriageway by pass road around the town, as this would have avoided the current close-juxtaposition of cars and homes in Southbridge and others.

    Incidentally, I have to admit that I drive down this road once or twice a month, in a petrol-fueled car, so I’m part of the problem.
    (New Year resolution–must look into electric cars)

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