Around a year ago a number of sensors that could record levels of various types of air pollution were installed in locations around Heaton in conjunction with Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory.
After a few initial problems and some calibration, the
sensors have now been recording data for a number of months. One of the
pollutants that has been in the news recently and is measured by the sensors is
NO2 is nitrogen dioxide, a colourless gas that is
released in to the air when fuels like petrol, diesel and natural gas are
burned. High levels of NO2 can cause health problems, particularly
for people with asthma.
The concentration of NO2 is recorded by the
sensors in micrograms per metre cubed of air (µg/m³). While there is no
safe level of any sort of pollutant there is a legal target for NO2
of an annual mean of 40 µg/m³. Additionally, a 1 hour mean average of 200 µg/m³
should not be exceeded more than 18 times a year.
In order to see what current levels of NO2 are in
the Heaton area, and establish a baseline against which future readings can be
compared, we looked at the average readings for the month of November 2018.
There were three sensors operational. The average readings of NO2
for the month are show in the following table.
Heaton Road – Outside St Teresa’s school
Chillingham Road – Outside the primary school
Junction of Heaton Road, Newton Road and the Coast Road (Corner House)
Unsurprisingly, there is quite a difference between the
Coast Road and Chillingham and Heaton Roads. This is likely to be related to
the difference in volume of traffic using the different roads.
Although the three monitors recorded different levels of NO2
all three showed rises and falls on the same days. This could be due to levels
of traffic rising and falling across different days or other factors such as
weather conditions. More data and research would be needed to pinpoint the
reasons behind the peaks. However, whatever the causes are, they seem to affect
the whole area simultaneously.
The following graphs show the daily average for November 2018 of NO2 recorded by each of the sensors.
At the time of writing the Council should have submitted a
plan to the Government detailing what it intends to do the tackle areas of the
city that currently have levels of NO2 that breach legal limits. One
of these areas is the Coast Road running past Heaton.
If no acceptable solutions are produced the Government may
impose a Clean Air Charging Zone (often referred to as a CAZ) on the city.
It is important that any solution created to tackle the high pollution levels in key areas don’t have a side effect of increasing the level of pollution elsewhere. This is particularly important in Heaton as any solution could move car traffic – a major source of NO2 – from the Coast Road on to other roads running through the area if not thought through.
It is not yet known what, if any, action the Council will be
taking to reduce levels on NO2 but at SPACE for Heaton we feel it is
important that any measures taken in one location don’t adversely affect
While Chillingham Road and Heaton Road don’t currently breach legal limits, measures aimed at reducing Coast Road values should not lead to increases elsewhere around Heaton, or elsewhere in the city.
What to do
If you share our concerns about air pollution in Heaton you can join us (no fees or commitment!) by visiting our signup page.
Additionally keep a look out for news from the Council about their plans and respond to any consultation it undertakes expressing your support or concerns for the proposals when they appear.
There are elections for the Council happening in Newcastle on the 3rd May 2018. This year new ward boundaries are being introduced. The wider Heaton area will be now covered by three wards: Heaton, Ouseburn and Manor Park.
With lots of new faces we’re keen to find out what the candidates think, in particular about how they plan to address transport-related issues in our community. To do that we’ve come up with five statements or pledges and we have asked each of the candidates whether they support these or if not what they plan to do instead.
Below the candidate’s responses, which we’ll update as they are received, we have also written a bit of background about why we have chosen these particular statements.
Please keep checking back in advance of the elections on 3 May and if one of your candidates has not yet answered please do encourage them to do so. The very least we should expect from future local councillors is a willingness to engage with local residents and share their vision for the future of Heaton.
THE SPACE FOR HEATON PLEDGES
The five pledges we have asked candidates to support are:
Streets that are safe (and feel safe) for children to walk and cycle to school, to the shops or to the park.
Air pollution in Newcastle brought within legal limits as soon as possible.
Residential streets that are pleasant, safe and attractive places to live and where children can play out.
Rapid implementation of temporary changes to trial interventions to support these objectives.
Constructive community engagement about how to address the public health impacts of travel and the benefits of active travel.
Please see below for more on why we have chosen these pledges and what they mean in practice.
We are contacting all the candidates and will post their responses below when we receive them. The candidates are listed in the order they appear on the Statement of Persons Nominated on the City Council website
Many thanks for your letter asking me to support your five pledges. I am happy to do so, with the additional comments below (especially in relation to pledge 4, where I would like to combine better engagement with a quicker process or trials). See the full response below
Thanks very much for getting in touch and giving me the opportunity to support your pledges, which I do so wholeheartedly. Read the full response
Pledge 1. Streets that are safe, and feel safe, for children to walk and cycle to school, to the shops or to the park.
Everyone should be able to travel safely whether they walk, cycle, use public transport or drive and should feel safe while they do so, but this isn’t currently the case in Heaton. Often, traffic is fast and heavy, which is intimidating to many people.
Children are less able to look out for themselves and are more likely to be injured or even killed in the event of a collision, so focusing on children, whether travelling independently or with an adult, is a good way to make Heaton safer for everyone.
When we say streets ‘that are safe and feel safe’ we mean streets where children can and do walk and cycle to school, to shops or to the park, and where parents feel comfortable to let them. Ultimately it will be for local residents, and in particular parents, to judge whether a street is safe for their children to walk and cycle. We hope to work with Councillors who sign up to this pledge to engage with local parents to determine what is needed to achieve this objective.
While it is right that children are the priority, the map below shows the locations of where people have been killed or seriously injured in the Heaton area in the last 10 years (2008-2017). As with other UK cities including Liverpool and Edinburgh we hope Newcastle will also adopt a “Vision Zero” target i.e. zero deaths or serious injuries on Newcastle’s roads.
Pledge 2. Air pollution in Newcastle brought within legal limits as soon as possible.
In the last official figures from 2016, both Gosforth and City Centre Air Quality Management Areas (which stretches along Jesmond Road to Heaton) were in breach of the legal limits that should have been met by 2010. Bringing air pollution within legal limits as soon as possible is actually a legal requirement and Newcastle City Council has been mandated by DEFRA to produce a plan to do this by the end of 2018. Our expectation is that legal limits in Newcastle can be achieved by 2020 however that will depend on the detailed modelling currently being undertaken by the Council.
Air pollution affects everyone but it affects the young and the old the most. In Newcastle it has been estimated that 124 lives are lost every year as a result of illegal air pollution just for nitrogen dioxide with particulate matter likely to be responsible for more still. As well as causing early deaths, air pollution is also known to be a major cause of heart disease, lung disease, cancer and has been shown to be responsible for birth defects and cognitive delay in children.
In a recent report, the Royal College of Physicians has recommended that to protect public health, the UK adopt even more ambitious targets than the current legal limits and we hope Newcastle will adopt and work towards meeting those more challenging targets.
Given this is a legal requirement that the Council must meet we expect all candidates will sign up to this pledge.
Pledge 3. Residential streets that are pleasant, safe and attractive places to live and where children can play out without fear of traffic.
Streets aren’t just about movement of traffic. They are also where we live, shop and socialise, and for children also where they are most likely to play outside near their homes.
Many streets in Heaton are suitable for children to play out but many are not. Traffic surveys undertaken by the Council in 2017 show some streets having high volumes of traffic throughout the day. On Warwick Street, a terrace link many in Heaton, but with high volumes on traffic more than 200 vehicles were recorded in one 15 minute period on 7th June 2017.
As a result we don’t see as many children playing out as we might expect and certainly a lot fewer than we when were children ourselves. Parents cannot be blamed for keeping their children indoors with such high volumes of traffic.
Low-traffic neighbourhoods with streets that are safe for children are better for everyone with less noise, less danger and cleaner air. It’s even been shown that people living on streets with less traffic have more friends and a better social life than those that live on streets with heavy traffic. This is no laughing matter when loneliness is now considered such a serious issue that the Government has appointed a Minister for Loneliness to create a national loneliness strategy.
As with pledge 1, it will be for local residents to judge whether a street is pleasant, safe and attractive and where children can play out without fear of traffic. We hope to work with Councillors who sign up to this pledge to engage with local residents who have concerns about traffic-related issues to look at options for how this objective can be met for their street.
Pledge 4. Rapid implementation of temporary changes to trial interventions in support of these objectives.
If Pledges 1-3 are to mean anything there must be some meaningful and urgent action as a result. Often changes involving traffic are controversial with long and heated debates about the likely consequences of a change. Yet other cities have shown that there is a different way, with trial interventions that can be implemented quickly that let people experience what will happen without any permanent commitment being made.
Using trials as part of a range of interventions helps inform the debate as people can see the benefits for themselves, and if there are issues with the trial then they can be stated factually with councillors and residents then able to work together to resolve or mitigate those issues.
Clearly not all issues can be resolved straight away but we hope to work with Councillors and other members of the community to identify and prioritise the areas of greatest concern, where trials might receive the most support and have the greatest benefit.
Pledge 5. Constructive community engagement about how to address the public health impacts of travel and the benefits of active travel.
Making streets safer and cutting air pollution should be objectives that everyone supports, but it is still important that the council and local councillors engage with the community to ensure that residents understand what the issues are and have a chance to help solve those issues. Air pollution in particular is invisible and we’ve found that many people haven’t been aware that it has been, and continues to be, a problem in Heaton. Nor are people generally aware of the very serious health impact of sedentary lifestyles which cost taxpayers billions of pounds every year and are responsible for even more early deaths than air pollution.
Likewise it is often challenging to put ourselves in others’ shoes, to understand for example what it is like to be a child on Heaton’s streets, what it is like to be a parent cycling or walking with children (or even alone) on busy streets during the rush hour, or what it is like for residents or visitors with disabilities or conditions for whom travel is a challenge. It is only by having this broad engagement that we can ensure that Heaton’s streets are safe and accessible for everyone.
These five pledges are based on SPACE for Heaton’s objectives which you can see here. They don’t cover all the SPACE for Heaton’s objectives but we welcome input from candidates about how they will go about meeting other aspects of those objectives to make streets in Heaton more healthy, liveable, accessible and safe for everyone of all ages and abilities.
Our thanks go to our neighbouring group, SPACE for Gosforth, in helping to put this information together.
On a very cold, frosty, morning in December some Heaton residents who had heard about the aims of SPACE for Heaton met in Heaton Park. The purpose of the meeting was to make a film that explained what and who SPACE for Heaton is and why it has been created.
After all the clips of people from around Heaton had been gathered together the film has been edited and released to the world.
You can see the film below. If you agree with the message don’t forget to share it with your friends. You can also sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with what SPACE for Heaton is doing.
We will be writing more about what the data is showing and what the current limits are shortly, but early indications show there are some areas to look at in more detail. For example, the national air quality guidelines say that PM10 particles should not exceed an average level of 50 µg/m³ over a 24 hour, period while European obligations say 50 µg/m³ should not be exceeded more than 35 times per year.
Readings of PM10 on Warwick Street on 12th January 2018 had readings around 100 µg/m³ for most of the morning before dropping during the afternoon.
European obligations for nitrogen dioxide are an annual mean of 40 µg/m³. Early readings taken from Chillingham Road on 12th January 2018 show a reading above that level at several points throughout the day but an average that currently meets targets.
Readings from the sensor on the Coast Road show an average of 68µg m³ for the 7 days from 6th to 13th Feb 2018.
As more data comes in over the next few weeks it will be possible to get a much clearer idea of the air quality across the area as well as what the causes of the different types of pollution are.
We hope to publish our findings soon so that we can begin to understand what the air in Heaton is like and what can be done to improve the quality of it and safeguard clean air for the future.
Read the press release from Newcastle University about the project below.
Local communities tap into the UK’s largest urban data set to find out how polluted their street is.
Residents concerned about the air quality around their homes and schools are taking control and testing the pollution levels themselves.
Using static air pollution monitors and hand-held sensors, the ‘SPACE for Heaton’ group, in Newcastle, is testing the air quality around their local area – including their three local schools – to find out exactly how much pollution they are being exposed to on a daily basis.
Carrying out the testing as part of Newcastle University’s Sense My Street project, data collected will be fed into Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory – the UK’s largest set of real-time, urban data.
This will provide a baseline against which the Heaton residents can compare the pollution levels along their own street with the average for the area.
Power to the people
Aare Puussaar, a doctoral researcher in Newcastle University’s Open Lab in the School of Computing who is leading the project, said:
“The aim is to give communities the power to gather data relevant to issues that are important to them at a very local scale.
“This could be anything from air quality and noise to localised flooding or the volume of traffic through the area.
“What makes this project possible is the Urban Observatory which provides us with a reliable source of baseline data against which local data can be compared. Through the Sense my Street project, the public is in charge – identifying the areas which they believe to be pollution hotspots, gathering the evidence and driving change.”
Mark Nelson, who leads the SPACE for Heaton group and is cycling to and from work with an air monitor, said their big concern was air pollution in Heaton following the implementation of the council’s city centre Air Quality Management Area (AQMA).
“The AQMA has been introduced which stretches along Jesmond Road to Heaton Road,” he explains. “We are really supportive of the scheme and are working closely with the council on the Streets for People project which is all about improving the areas for walking and cycling.
“But it’s a really busy area and the traffic still has to go somewhere. Our concern is that it will all just shift to going through Heaton in future and that air quality in the area will plummet.”
“This project is allowing us to gather that data and find out exactly what the impact is.”
Hospital consultant and mum of three Julie Whittaker, who lives in Heaton and whose children attend St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School, is one of the residents who has been taking part in the project. She and her children – Fergus, Jenny and Sam – have been collecting pollution data on their way to school.
“There are seven schools in this small area and that creates a huge amount of traffic in the morning and afternoons,” she explains.
“Ultimately, what we’d like are dedicated cycle lanes so that all our children can safely cycle to and from school. This would not only reduce the number of cars on the road but also improve our children’s health both in terms of reducing the air pollution but also getting them out of the cars and exercising.
“But to push for this we need the facts and figures to back it up. Through the Sense my Street project that’s exactly what we’re doing, gathering the evidence we need to hopefully make a case for reducing traffic and pollution in Heaton.”
Open data for the city
The Sense my Street project, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), is just one data set that is being fed into the Urban Observatory – a ground-breaking project that monitors Newcastle and Gateshead at multiple levels such as temperature, wind flow, air pollution and traffic.
Funded by Newcastle University and UKCRIC – the UK Collaboratorium for Research on Infrastructure and Cities – the observatory is based in Newcastle University’s Urban Sciences Building on Science Central.
Data from hundreds of sensors is fed into this central hub that is openly available on the internet.
Led by Newcastle University in collaboration with Newcastle City Council and other partners, the aim is for the data to be used by planning authorities, infrastructure operators, emergency services and community groups to help them make better informed decisions about how conditions in the city could affect them.
“There is a wealth of data available in our cities and since it was established in 2015 the Urban Observatory has recorded more than half a billion observations about conditions in the city centre,” explains Phil James, who co-leads Newcastle University’s Urban Observatory research.
“But the Science of Sensing at scale is still little understood and now we’ve captured this data we need many people to get involved in using it to help deliver the cities of the future that communities want.”