15 June 2023

Cleaner air for those that need it most

Cleaner air for those that need it most  image
Image: Cllr Champion and Fatma Makalo talk with residents at Bridgeside Lodge Care Centre, overlooking Regents Canal.

Here in Islington, we’re determined to create a more equal future where everyone, regardless of their background or circumstances, has the opportunity to thrive.

We know, though, that we face major challenges – including from the ongoing air pollution public health emergency. The need for action couldn’t be clearer – across London, thousands of premature deaths are attributed to air pollution ever year, and many more people are affected by ill health. That simply shouldn’t be the case in 2023. It’s imperative that we all take action to improve air quality – to secure better health outcomes for our residents, and to create a greener borough for all.

We’ve already taken bold action. Through our network of seven low-traffic neighbourhoods and 35 School Streets, our pioneering work to electrify our fleet, and the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), we've seen continued borough-wide improvement in air quality in recent years.

But there’s more that we all can and must do to tackle this emergency, especially following the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) decision to set tougher global air pollution targets.

In seeking to improve air quality and mitigate the impacts of climate change, we’re determined to ensure that we provide help to those that need it most – those that are the most vulnerable to the devastating effects of air pollution.

That’s why we’ve recently announced a new initiative, believed to be the first of its kind in this country, to protect residents in Islington care homes from pollution. Our care homes look after some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents – such as older people, people with complex mental health needs, and people with learning difficulties.

If we’re to create a more equal future, we know that we must work with care homes to improve their air quality and improve the health and wellbeing of their residents.

Over the course of two years, we aim to conduct air quality audits at all 16 of Islington’s care homes – to provide them all with direct, bespoke guidance on how they can improve their air quality. That could be by installing air pollution monitors, greening, improving ventilation, or through a multitude of other means.

With the support of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), we’re providing each care home with a grant of £4,000 – and the opportunity to bid for a bigger £100,000 pot – to implement the measures that we’ve suggested.

In doing so, and in providing support to individual care homes, we hope to increase awareness of air quality, and in turn encourage behaviour change in homes and across the borough.

So far, we’ve completed audits at nine fantastic, local care homes. One of those is the picturesque Bridgeside Lodge, which sits alongside the Regent’s Canal, one of the borough’s most popular walking spots.

Our air quality team have conducted an audit at their site, to provide guidance on how they can improve air quality for their 64 residents. Since then, they’ve started using a service called AirText, which provides them with an alert when pollution levels are high. Where possible, they’re also shutting their windows when solid fuels are being burnt outside, to protect their residents.

Our work with Bridgeside Lodge is still at an early stage but, in time, they’re looking to apply for funding to improve their community garden by planting more plants to absorb air pollution, and by installing cycle parking to encourage more staff and visitors to travel to the centre more sustainably.

We hope that, in time, the project will bring huge benefits in improving air quality for those that are most vulnerable to its effects. Those benefits shouldn’t just be felt here in Islington, though – we want this pioneering project to act as an example for other local authorities to follow, and will make our audits available to councils across the country.

Cllr Rowena Champion is Islington Council’s executive member for Environment, Air Quality, and Transport.

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