Clean air for SE23


Hi Ricky,

That’s fantastic to know that there is already a group set up. Are you interested in expanding and covering forest hill as well? I’ll get in touch with Zara and perhaps we could start a forest hill/ catford branch of the same group? It makes sense for catford and forest hill to link together as we have the same mega problem of the 205.

I think forest hillites should meet up and see where we fit into this picture. Meeting up in person makes discussion so much easier (I’m pretty rubbish at social media).



Thanks to everyone who responded. I’m on a bit of a fact finding mission this week and will get back to you to arrange a meeting soon.

The council money that is available is for “regreening” the Lewisham borough rather than prevention methods or re-routing traffic. Whilst the prevention side is very important and perhaps there are other funds available for that, I’m interested in focusing on capturing emissions at source so that it solves problems for everyone, including those living along the most polluted roads.

I’ve contacted Zahira and Street Trees for Living -do you run this Ricky?

Watch this space.


Hi Alice. No, I don’t run either of the groups: just a participant. If you’ve made contact with STfL I’m sure they’ll respond directly. Re the Crofton Park group: I checked and they do have a Facebook page - just not a public-facing one (ie one that non Facebook users can access). It’s called ‘Lewisham Protect Our Future’. I’ll contact them and ask them to change this status so that folks like me can still keep up with what’s happening, but as I mentioned we are aiming to launch a simple website in the near future. But I’m sure Zaria or Jo (the other organiser) will get back to you.

Re roads and traffic: another group to know about is Brockley Better Streets. Although they are small, and only focusing on the Brockley Conservation area, I’m sure they could give some good pointers to useful resources.

Keep in touch



Please can you elaborate on this? I don’t understand what “capturing emissions at source” means.


Hi Devonish Forester,

There’s evidence that hedges, green walls and even moss benches can reduce NO2 and particulates by 30-40%. If they are placed in the right place, at exhaust level and ideally between pedestrians and the road then that could stop 30-40% of emissions getting to our lungs.

Also look up Rob Mackenzie in Birmingham university.

The ULEZ is expected to reduce emissions by 30% around the south circular as people change their cars/companies change fleets so together that is a massive amount.

Combined with the really important prevention work you talked about and perhaps incentives (grants/loans to get an electric car anyone?) It could all add up to make a massive difference.

The reason why I want to focus on regreening first is because that is what the money is available for in March.

I think it’s important to look into spending the money effectively Perhaps kings could do some studies on how effective different regreening measures are.

Then we can campaign to get some hedges/green walls along the places in forest hill which are crunch points for pollution and other groups can campaign to get it in their area.

Think how nice it will make our neighbourhoods look too!

It’s not going to be straightforward as the southcircular is managed by TfL so local councillors can’t influence them much which is why creating a pressure group is so important.

Look forward to discussing more.


split this topic #19

A meeting has been arranged for Thursday 21st Feb

See: Clean Air for Forest Hill - Meeting


Can I start by applauding the work you are doing on this issue. I think it is an important issue and if there are sensible things that can be done to improve air quality I fully support them.

My one concern would be the inappropriate placing of green barriers to form a pollution trap. The places that suffer most from pollution are those with high volume of diesel vehicles, narrow roads, tall buildings and trees forming a roof to the street. I’m particularly thinking about the stretch of London Road (South Circular) opposite Sainsburys and in front of Kings Garth.

The trees and bushes that protect residents in Kings Garth create a zone that traps pollution exactly where pedestrians are using the road.

I know it might be even harder to achieve, but I would welcome solutions that move the polluted air away from well used pedestrian routes such as high streets. I’m imagining giant fans in the pavement but realise that this would be unlikely to be feasible. But it would be good to look at solutions beyond planting. And most importantly ensuring that any planting does not make pollution worse for pedestrians.


I think this sounds great, and something I would fully support.

I’ve no idea the key areas are, but my first thought would be around schools, primary to start off with, where it appears younger children are potentially more affected than adults. As children are in schools all day vs more temporary exposure eg waiting for a bus, walking down the road etc I would have thought this would have the most benefit also. (this is completely anecdotal).

I assume pavement space as well as views to the road for road crossing safety etc might be issues with fences, dependant on height.


Hi Michael,

I knew that tree canopies could enclose pollution but not the hedges -so that’s a really interesting point. I think that’s why it’s so important to get the interventions right and why they need to be evidence based. It would be great if you could join us either at the meeting on the 21st or when we form a group -locals who know about the environment at the end of their street will be invaluable.

My vision for having planters placed between the pedestrians and the road (ie outer edge of pavement) might in theory trap some of the pollutants before they swirl up into the bushes and trees? I think it would be worth getting experts on board to test set ups and give us guidelines- I’m a total novice so part of the groups mission would be to find out what really works. There are environmental engineers who specialise in doing this sort of thing so maybe part of the funding bid should go towards that?

All best



Hi Okar,

You’re right-There’s loads of issues to overcome-emergency vehicle access, pedestrian visibility and safety at cross roads and how to cut and maintain hedges.

However I think the planters can be low at exhaust height and they’d have to be set back from crossing points and bus stops and driveways so not placed in a chain the whole way down the road. But when you start looking you see there’s loads of potential places for them. Look at this snap of the high st next to costa-there are already planters there-they are just a bit crap. If they were planted with a full hedge and trailing ivy (and there were more of them) they would be much more effective.

Some smart design could overcome all these issues and it could be quite cheap.



I agree with this, as pollution is particularly damaging to children’s developing lungs and has lots of negative knock-on effects (e.g. rising rates of asthma, which leads to less active children etc).
On the school run I often see cars with their engines idling outside playgrounds - presumably parents waiting for drop off or pick up and wanting their heating / air con on…it is horrible to walk past (particularly for young children who are right at exhaust height) and it must be terrible for the pollution in the area of the school. I wonder if there are there any ways to change this behaviour?

Regarding the ULEZ, whilst in general I applaud it, I have to admit that as someone who lives just outside the new ULEZ near the south circular, I am worried it will make pollution in my area worse.


They are maintained by volunteers from the Forest Hill Society and we have been slowly adding more and more plants to the high street - not specifically to tackle pollution but to make the place look nicer.

If they look ‘a bit crap’ that’s because it is winter but soon the daffodils will emerge and the plants are actively maintained from spring to autumn.

And you wouldn’t believe the bureaucratic nightmare of getting planters on the fences - which is why we eventually went for lots of planters. The Forest Hill Society has quite a bit of experience in greening the town centre but we always welcome more ideas and more volunteers to help make it all a little better.


Hi Daffodil,

I saw a police car with its engine idling on perry vale today and I asked him to turn the engine off! He looked a bit bemused but he did it! It’s mad that people do this outside schools and I think signs and education would really help. They have put some climbing plants up outside Dalmain School but they need to be lower down and nearer the road so we could campaign to fund this.

I’m want to find out more about about the effect of ULEZ too. Perhaps that is something we can ask Cllr Louise about this as she says the predictions indicate it will cut pollution on south circular as well (even though the zone doesn’t include it) as most traffic crosses the south circular into town and companies will be changing their fleets in advance of the legislation change. Let’s hope that is right, but we could campaign for monitoring of this effect.

To put he issue in context and alleviate some fears, when you look at the kings map, it looks like the pollution levels are much less in zone 3 than further into town, and we are lucky to have wide streets that are not usually over 3-4 storey, so it creates less of the problematic “urban canyons”, but there are still areas which are dangerous and we can still work to make the Air here as clean as possible. And it would be great to have an expert talk to us to find out how it actually affects our area.

Hope you can join the meeting on 21st Feb at st George’s church tomorrow talk to Louise.

All best



Oh I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude -they only “a bit crap” from a pollution absorbing point of view. And it’s great that volunteers are doing such good work to make the area nicer. I can imagine there’s lots of issues to overcome and it’s good to know there’s already a group working on this. Maybe we could work with the forest hill society on this? I’d really like to volunteer to help so will get in touch with them.



Unfortunately idling outside schools is just one if the many mad ways car drivers behave outside schools. Signs, newsletters, asking nicely does nothing which is why some schools in Southwark have started closing streets at drop-off times as discussed on the ED Forum:
Southwark school street closure scheme discussion
It’s great you asked the police driver to stop idling and he did it. I’d never dare ask someone outside a school to stop doing this or I’d get a load of abuse!


We recently got new trees planted in our street in conjunction with the very helpful Street Trees for Living. One of our street’s residents delivered leaflets asking if anyone would consider pledging some money towards new street trees.
We had lost a lot of trees on our road over the past five years (Council had removed them due to disease, being unsafe etc) and they had not been replaced. Quite a few residents came forward to pledge funding and with the pooled money and some funding from Perry Vale Assembly, Street Trees for Living were able to organise getting us 5 trees planted. Residents have to volunteer to water the young trees. We are really pleased!


Yes, I think the asking nicely rarely works and many schools now wash their hands of the parents and suggest you contact the council. It is understandable since if residents get verbal abuse and threats from asking parents to move while idling or parking over a driveway. The reaction to teachers or a patrol of kids would be similar as these people have a sense of entitlement. I don’t think closing streets for a short period of time will stop people driving their kids, they will arrive early or they will just drop them off on neighbouring streets.

I do agree with planting on main roads to reduce pollution but many of our schools are on residential roads and I think more emphasis should be put on removing the cars than putting in plants to remove the pollutants. Yes will work outside the school but what about when kids walk to school on the parts of these roads which are outside houses which in many case have no hedges just driveways.


I think it will not be long before only electric vehicles will be allowed in city areas
Planting hedges would just contain the pollution on the streets. Presumably drivers and passengers would then breathe more polluted air.


Some pollution can be “trapped” close to pedestrians by plants/trees, but greening up streets scrubs harmful gases from the air too (see page below), so overall probably beneficial?

Electric cars (and modern, efficiently-allocated public transport using hybrids/EVs - like Uber, for example) are the answer.

I’ve just switched to an electric car. It’s a game changer for driving pleasure, too. I’m delighted with it.


Hi everyone,

I’ve been in touch with an expert from the University of Birmingham who has been working with TFL on regreening. Some detailed guidelines are going to be published in a couple of weeks so I will share them here but in the meantime this is the factsheet they have produced: