Chessington District Residents’ Association


1)      December 2011 :




A report by the Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons, fifth report of the session 2009-2010, begins by saying ‘poor air quality reduces life expectancy of everyone in the UK by an average of seven to eight months and up to 50,000 people a year may die prematurely because of it. Despite these facts being known air quality is not seen as a priority across government and the UK is failing to meet a range of domestic and European targets’. In the South of the Borough the speaker at our 2009  AGM told us that we had a higher incidence of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) than in the rest of Kingston. If either of you have come into contact with anyone suffering from COPD, or the ancillary illnesses it is associated with, then you will understand the terrible impact this has on people’s lives. Our Association’s primary objectives are the health of our residents and that our school children are not subject to excessive levels of air pollution.

A brief summary of our activities is as follows:-

2010 -  We participated in a  sub committee of the Health Overview Committee (we notice it is now called a ‘panel’ not a ‘committee’) .  This resulted in the publication of a report. The report is titled The Health Impact of Vehicle Emissions, Health Overview Panel, March 2010 and can be viewed on line at the RBK website. 

2011 - RBK received a paltry sum of money to undertake a limited amount of  nitrogen dioxide  gaseous pollution monitoring in the Borough.  We said that the chosen locations for the monitoring equipment were all in locations that had a relatively low amount of air pollution. The Officers replied that their intention was to monitor background air pollution!  The results have now been published and were presented at last weeks SOTB Neighbourhood Committee and the Health Overview Panel.  The report is at the bottom of the attached minutes.  As we expected the results are inadequate  and the statistical interpretation is, in our opinion, poor.  At our Neighbourhood Committee our Councillors accepted these sentiments and have initiated a new round of pollution monitoring which will take place near to to local schools and shopping centres.

November 2011 -  Our Association attended a conference held by the London Boroughs of Camden and Islington on this topic.  A video recording of the conference presentations was made and can be viewed at .   If you have time to look at this the presentation made by Professor Frank Kelly, the Director of the Environmental Research Group at Kings College London gave a very clear and explicit description of the nature of the health hazards and subsequent disease sessions.  The  presentation by Simon Birkett, of Clean Air in London, gave a most explicit description of the political and legal struggle for air pollution control and even basic adherence to the law. The man is a hero. Lucinda Turner of Transport for London gave a very interesting presentation on what TfL are trying to do. You can use the link below for a video of the whole summit .  This link includes all of the questions and answer sessions.  Environmental activists in Camden and Islington are of a calibre unknown in Kingston

There were many very relevant and telling statements made during the conference.  Professor Kelly said that children’s lungs continue to develop up to the age of eighteen. He explicitly said that  when children are exposed to high levels of air pollution their lungs will never fully develop. He also showed electron microscope slides of dying cells containing PM10 particulates, which having entered the body do not decay.

We are continuing to work in this area and in future will keep you informed as to what we are doing.



2)     January 2012  :





One of our Associations objectives is to protect the quality of life for the residents of Chessington and the South of the Borough. That can be partially achieved by protecting them from the effects of air pollution and especially vehicle generated air pollution (VGAP). The first step is to identify the location and scale of that pollution and to this end we need reliable evidence in a scientific form. During 2011 the Council undertook air pollution monitoring at forty locations across the Borough. It was hoped that the Council’s report to the SOTB Neighbourhood Committee on the 18th of January (agenda item B) would provide that data and raise awareness of the problems that we face, so as to enable us to take effective action to protect the health of our residents, and especially our children. Regrettably that did not happen. We have very serious concerns about a number of the issues that were touched upon during the presentation and in subsequent discussion. Some of these we have detailed in this document. Though we welcome the decisions that were made by the Committee for future action we do not think that these are adequate when we consider the very serious problems that we currently have. We have proposed further actions to help the group in our community who are most at risk that is our children.


·        The way in which the Council used statistics and the conclusions drawn from the data were questionable. This is an important issue because the conclusions resulting from this work will be used by other people in the future who will accept them without question and so base policies or projects upon false premises. It is also regrettably possible to state that as the data is currently presented it could be used by the Council as an excuse to take no further action.

·        One such instance of flawed data was the calculation of averaged back ground pollution level. The diffusion tubes used to collect data on the amount of nitrous dioxide in the atmosphere are relatively primitive measuring instruments. It is noted in paragraph 10 of the report that the tubes have a bias that can result in significant under or over reading. The Officer mentioned the large error correction factor that had been used to compensate for inaccuracy. This turned out to be an 8% reduction of the pollution level across all of the sampled sites in the Borough! The logical implication is that every tube used in the survey, all forty of them, read high by a significant amount! This surely raises doubts as to the validity of the results quoted in the report.

·        Air quality standards are set out in legislation.  For nitrogen dioxide there are two limit values specified. The first is a pollution level which must not be exceeded more than eighteen times per year. The second pollution level is the annual maximum amount permitted. By reducing the recorded pollution levels down by 8% the number of sites in Kingston exceeding the annual limit was reduced from 17 to 12.

·         The data was further distorted by the location of the monitoring tubes. The chosen sites of some of the tubes were not only well away from known sources of air pollution but were well away from what local residents would consider to be areas of average air pollution. One example was the choice of Copt Gilders in Chessington, which must be the best ventilated site in the south of the borough. It is located high on the brow of a hill and has a large open space which is accessed by five roadways, four of which are wide. There is always a free flow of air, even on still, hot summer days. If you wanted to reduce the average calculated level of pollution in the area, this would be the sort of site that you would choose, because it would be certain to give you a low pollution reading.

·        In 2011 our organisation complained that the locations chosen for monitoring equipment would not provide the data we need to confirm the scale of vehicle generated air pollution of sites which were known to be seriously polluted. That key information is urgently needed. In some respects the monitoring work undertaken in 2011 wasted limited resources. We are pleased that the South of the Borough Neighbourhood Committee has now relocated the sampling equipment to concentrate on heavily polluted locations during 2012. We hope that such relocations are done right across the Borough.




·        The Officer blithely said that the level of pollution that school children were exposed to was acceptable because they spent only the smaller part of their day at school and then returned home to less polluted parts of the borough. His argument was that even if schools were alongside busy main roads, and if the children were lucky enough to return to a home in an area of low air pollution, then all was well because the figures would average out! He said that the average time of exposure to high levels of air pollution would be low and within safe limits. This is profoundly wrong reasoning! The worst example that can be quoted to confute such poor reasoning is the social housing at 44 to 62 Leatherhead Road in Chessington. In excess of sixty children now live in homes specifically designed for large families that have been built directly onto a very busy part of the Leatherhead Road. Each day this length of the road has long periods in which traffic queues. The front row of these houses, which are only a few feet from the roadway, must receive an appalling level of vehicle generated air pollution.  Many children in Kingston are subject to high levels of vehicle generated air pollution both at home and at school!

·        An analogy with smoking, both direct and passive, whose health risks are now well understood, illustrates how wrong is the Officers methodology. If someone smoking outdoors takes five minutes to smoke a cigarette then a packet of twenty per day would take one hour and forty minutes. That is approximately one and a half times a child exposed to air pollution spends in the playground each day, playing before school, during playtimes and at lunchtime. On days when there are organised games or outdoor teaching activities the exposure time can be doubled.

·        Our intention is not to compare the health damage caused by smoking to the health damage caused by air pollution. We are not qualified to do so. What we are saying is that the method of risk assessment used by the officer is wrong. It understates and misunderstands the health damage known to be caused by air pollution. It is known that when particulates are lodged in lungs they are there permanently. That means that exposure to air pollution causes damage that is cumulative, and so not able to be ‘averaged’ out! At the recent conference held by the London Boroughs of Camden and Islington Professor Frank Kelly of Kings College London showed an electron microscope photograph of particulates lodged in a dying cell. When the cell dies the particulates remain in the body. He said that children’s lungs naturally continue to develop until the age of eighteen but that the lungs of children exposed to high levels of VGAP never fully develop. The Professor also said that young children, because of their height, ingest a higher amount of particulates than older children. The House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee 2009-10 report ‘Air Quality’ states in its introduction that each year air pollution kills more people than smoking. The high levels of air pollution that children are exposed to may lead to poor heath and the possible development of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease later in their lives.


·        During the educative process that our members have undergone in recent years we have been made aware of the nature of gaseous pollution based around nitrous dioxide and of particulate pollution called ‘PM10’, which is actually a range of particulates measuring ten millionths of a millimetre or smaller. The particulates are thought to be more injurious to health than the nitrous dioxide, though that in itself is bad. The gaseous pollution, which is light in weight, helps to develop the particulate pollution, which is heavier. In a theoretical environment with no air movement the particulate pollution would sink to the ground. But that environment does not exist in the real world. The PM10’s are so small that their movement is more analogous to a gas than to what we think of as particle movement. The slightest breeze or air movement caused by vehicles passing at speed will swirl some PM10’s into the atmosphere and move them along on air currents. PM10’s do not only originate from vehicle exhausts. They are also generated from brake pad wear and from tyre wear. Modern cars which are serviced at 10,000 mile intervals usually require new brake pads at each service. Tyres seem to wear out all too quickly! There is no escape from particulate pollution. Last year the press reported that Transport for London (TfL) were conducting trials of a technology to spray a fluid into the air above roadway’s to suppress particulates by ‘gluing’ them to the road surface. At the recent conference the TfL Policy Manager said that the experiment only succeeded in reducing particulates by between ten and fifteen percent ( which was not much use when parts of the Marylebone Road, where one of the trials was conducted, have pollution levels exceeding European Commission maximum levels by two hundred percent!)


·        The nature of the pollution puts the children of all schools adjacent to main roads at great risk of permanent damage to their health. In our part of the Borough the children of St Pauls are most dangerously at risk. That is because they are primary school children, who are most at risk of damage from VGAP, in a school located on a very heavily used road which has playgrounds starting only ten feet from the roadway.

·        At the Neighbourhood Committee someone said that southbound vehicles, which pass closest to St Pauls, have stopped accelerating by the time they pass the school. This is probably not true but is also not a relevant factor. This is because at 30 mph vehicle velocity is such that they will still be emitting significant amounts of PM10’s when they pass the school. At 30mph vehicles travel 14.66 yards per second and the playground is 35 yards from the brow of the hill when measured from the electronic speed sign located at the North Star. If the vehicles do cease to accelerate it will be at that point, which is just over two seconds away from the school. When they approach the school the drivers will have seen the traffic camera and may well apply their brakes, so generating additional brake pad wear pollution. If they are turning into Hawkhurst Gardens increased tyre wear is added to the PM10 pollution mix.

·        We do not agree with the comments that the Leylandi (Leyland cypress) hedge along the Hook Road protects the children in the playground from VGAP. Since the Neighbourhood Committee meeting one of our members has inspected the hedge. He reports that the hedge is old and decayed. It appears not to be growing, is thin and also has in places been cut back. You can see right through it. It offers no protection at all. Even if it was in good condition it would not provide adequate protection from vehicle generated air pollution.

·        We think that nitrous dioxide will pass through the hedge unimpeded. The Leylandi will trap a very small amount of PM10’s, but the amount will be insignificant and most of this pollution will travel into the playground and even beyond. One of our members has commented that the school may well open its windows or doors in hot weather, so exposing pupils to longer periods of higher levels of air pollution.

·        We think that there is a real and urgent need to provide St Pauls School with protection from air pollution. In our opinion a solid pollution barrier needs to be erected along the Hook Road  boundary of the school. It should be of significant height, ideally in excess of six feet. The timelines that RBK works to are far too slow in these situations. In our opinion this barrier needs to be installed quickly.




·        We think that similar arguments of the need for pollution barriers can be made for Southborough Boys School and Tolworth Girls School. The students at those schools may be older but the air pollution at those schools, which are alongside the A3, will be at least as high, and probably much higher, than the air pollution level at St Pauls.

·         We think that expert opinion, which is not available from within RBK, should be sought to examine the air pollution situation and effects on children and students at the combined site of St Phillips Special Needs School, Ellingham Primary School and Chessington Community College. This site is close enough to the A243 Leatherhead Road to cause serious health concerns. In the past RBK have consulted Kings College London for such advice.




·        There is now a great deal of knowledge about the cause, nature and effect to public health of air pollution and especially VGAP. We think that our community and governance,  both locally and London wide, should now be taking positive action to protect our residents and especially our children and young people from the permanent damage caused to their lives by excessive air pollution. Indeed, surely we should be asking why we are not already protecting our neighbourhoods, especially our schools from vehicle generated air pollution?  Just what is the hold up?

·        In this response we have focussed on the dangers to our children. In our opinion a similar examination needs to be undertaken on behalf of those residents who live in areas having excessive amounts of vehicle generated air pollution; for example alongside the A3 and A243. It has been confirmed by a number of senior doctors that the South of the Borough has a higher number of residents suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is often caused by air pollution, than elsewhere in the Borough. Yet we are having a great deal of difficulty in getting the medical authorities to provide us with even a postcode based listing of where the patients live in order to see if there is a correlation between living near a heavily air polluting road and suffering from COPD.


Jim Taylor and Francis Brannan

January 2012