Residents at a new south London housing development will be advised against opening their windows because of high levels of air pollution in the area.
The London Borough of Lewisham has been condemned for approving the residential scheme near Deptford Creek and the A2 after finding that local nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels surpassed legal safety limits.
Rosamund Adoo Kissi-Debrah, a local campaigner whose daughter’s death from a rare form of asthma has been linked to air pollution, said the council had shown “very poor judgement”. She added: “There’s a failure to understand the real impact of air pollution on health.”
An air quality assessment carried out on behalf of the Bluecroft Property Development found the company’s planned housing site on Deptford Church Street contained 56.3 micrograms of NO2 per cubic metre – well above the legal maximum of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.
“With opening windows the developer should advise the future occupants that their health could be at risk due to relatively high levels of air pollution in the area,” the assessment guidance stated.
Despite the warning, Lewisham council approved the construction of 56 flats on the site, made up of four-storey and eight-storey buildings.
The local authority’s strategic planning committee report set out a requirement that the developer provide an “air pollution risk notification to occupiers of floors below second-floor level”.
According to the environmental policy magazine The ENDS Report, a planning officer also recommended that residents on the lower levels – expected to be the worst affected by air pollution – should be “notified of the potential air pollution risks to human health. This would be likely to take the form of marketing information.”
The developer will also be required to pay £7,500 towards air quality monitoring in the area.
A spokesperson for Lewisham council said: “A planning condition is in place that ensures that the building will meet air quality objectives. The developer will provide a ventilation system that will take clean air from the roof and deliver it to the first two floors of the development.
“As part of our drive to tackle poor air quality, we will soon be launching a borough-wide consultation that proposes emissions-based charging for parking permits with the aim of encouraging residents to use low- or no-emission vehicles, or better still, seek other forms of transport.”
Two million people in the capital are living in areas with toxic air, according to the latest data from the London Atmospheric Emission Inventory.
This week the first phase of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) came into effect – an effort by mayor Sadiq Khan to cut diesel emissions and improve air quality.
Vehicles that do not meet emissions standards are subject to a £12.50 charge for every day they drive within the Ulez, in addition to the £11.50 congestion charge that operates on weekdays.