Clean air for SE23


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.

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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.

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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:


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Hi Chris,

Might you be able to write more about how you go about moving to electric-getting a charging point etc? And the cost benefit?

I’d love to change to an electric car (recently changed from horrible diesel to petrol with an eco boost feature which prevents idling, but we couldn’t afford electric). However, given the savings I could have made running an electric car, if I had got a loan it would probably be more cost effective in the long term.

I’m trying to encourage the local sainsburys to trial affordable loans for electric cars-imagine, people could charge them at the Sydenham sainsburys whilst doing their shopping which would improve bell green’s air.

Can anyone make it to the assembly meeting on 21st?



Hi @Hedgeways,

Sure, happy to help (although it’s early days as I’ve only had the car for a week). has a number of existing topics discussing electric cars:

And in our opt-in Geeks category:

As I get more experience with my car I’ll add a reply to the above topics.


It was great to hear Cllr Louise Krupski talk about the good things Lewisham Council are doing to make the air cleaner in the borough and to reduce CO2 emissions.

The ULEZ is expected to reduce NOX by 30% north of south circular and 26% south of it as businesses change their fleets and car owners change their diesels (which are rapidly loosing value) to electric or petrol.

In previous years, London surpassed its air quality target for the whole year by 6th Jan. This year it hasn’t been announced yet-so things are improving, but they are still bad.

Lewisham benefits from the High level research done by kings and has won awards for the steps it is taking. These include:
-Education of parents through kids about reducing idling and cycling/walking to school
-Working with the construction industry to reduce CO2.
-Partnerships with businesses in north London to reduce freight use and create clean air villages.
-Liveable Neighbourhood grants to improve cycling and walking networks.
-Starting to increase electric charging points on street from currently 10 to 16 this year to ultimate goal of there being a point within a 10 minute walk of every resident.

But there is more that can be done if the community get behind these schemes and start our own schemes.

You can sign up to the clean air pledge on the council website to do something positive today.



I noticed this on the weekend too. I was in Kent looking toward London, and the yellow haze was shocking:


Hi Michael,

Evidence from Birmingham university has calculated that hedges actually absorb Co2 and the NOX and small

Particles are deposited on their leaves and washed off by rainwater (becoming harmless) so they trap pollution in a good way. The best thing you can do to reduce pollution in your home is to plant a hedge outside.

Hedges in regreening schemes would be low so wouldn’t have the trapping effect of tree canopies which can overhang.

There are guidelines soon to be published about this.

All best



Further info on the Climate Emergency Declaration at Lewisham Council-sounds scary but it’s a really positive step. It’s starts at 7.30, not 8.30 as previously posted (but the issue is expected to be heard around 8.30).