Major Survey of Air Pollution Levels In Central Putney
The Putney Society finds excess levels of Nitrogen Dioxide


For more information on the Putney Society visit

Contacts: Dr Carolyn McMillan, Chair: Email:
Tel: 020 8789 6692

Jonathan Callaway, Deputy Chair: Email:
Tel: 020 8789 199

For details of the proposals put to Wandsworth Council’s Cabinet Member for the Environment at our members’ meeting in April 2011 see

Assembly Member Proposes "Green Wall" For Putney

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The Putney Society has become very concerned about harmful air pollution in Putney High Street. With support from Mapping for Change we mobilised volunteers to conduct a survey of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO 2) levels at 36 sites in central Putney over four weeks in September/October 2011. The key conclusions from our survey are very worrying:

  • NO 2 levels 75% in excess of EU limits not only in Putney High Street (recorded by Wandsworth Council) but also at Putney Cross and on Putney Hill (in our survey)
  • NO 2 levels 25% in excess of EU limits along the Upper Richmond Road and close to the High Street
  • EU limits for NO 2 also exceeded on several residential roads in Putney
  • The pollution effects of traffic on major roads clearly spread beyond the immediate locality.


Air Pollution Map of Central Putney
Our findings are presented in the form of a map of central Putney which depicts the NO 2 levels we measured at each site (circles) and Wandsworth Council’s own measurements for comparison purposes (triangles). The Council already monitors air quality in the High Street and Felsham Road and our survey is intended to complement this work by covering the whole of central Putney.

 Why measure NO 2 levels?
Vehicle emissions are the major source of NO 2 which is an irritant gas known to harm lung function and cause respiratory problems especially among children and the elderly. Levels of NO 2 are also a strong indicator of the presence of other dangerous pollutants from vehicle emissions such as fine particulates (PM10 and PM2.5).

* The colour shading of roads on the map has been applied using the inverse distributed weighting (IDW) method to create a more effective visualisation. IDW is a multivariate interpolation method that assigns values to unknown points by using values from surrounding points

The present position
Wandsworth Council declared the whole borough an Air Quality Management Area in 2001 and has introduced a number of policies designed to combat air pollution levels which they recognise as being too high, dangerously so in some cases. The Council has reported that hourly mean NO 2 levels exceeded EU limits 2,602 times in the High Street during 2010; the permissible number of “exceedences” is 18 per annum. We fully support these policies and accept that much work has been undertaken already.

The Mayor of London’s Air Quality Strategy commits the administration to a range of actions designed to combat air pollution including more stringent Low Emission Zone (LEZ) limits. These foresee imposing Euro IV standards for all buses by 2015 and Euro 3 standard for larger vans and minibuses by January 2012. The EU first introduced these standards over ten years ago and we feel valuable time has been lost which now needs to be made up as quickly as possible.

We note that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) recently announced additional modest funding for councils to tackle air pollution, focused on helping reduce NO 2 levels.

Next Steps
We believe more urgent action is essential and propose the following:

  • The earliest possible introduction of low-emission buses on routes using any of Putney’s roads, especially Putney High Street; all routes using roads which have recorded high levels of air pollution should be prioritised;
  • A greater emphasis on “active travel” (i.e. walking and cycling) for local journeys as a first step towards reducing traffic volumes;
  • A much faster imposition of the most stringent EU emission limits on all classes of motor vehicle within the LEZ;
  • More intensive monitoring of air pollutants, especially particulates, with much more publicity given to outcomes; this would enable the effectiveness of measures already being undertaken to be gauged.

We shall share our data with Wandsworth Council and will seek an early meeting with the Council for further discussion of the data and the many proposals put to the Cabinet Member for the Environment at our members’ meeting in April 2011.

Dr Carolyn McMillan, Chair of the Putney Society, said
“Our research confirms that concerns about high air pollution levels in central Putney are justified. Airborne pollutants produced by vehicles have known adverse effects on the health of people of all ages, but particularly of children and the elderly. We urge Wandsworth Council to take swift action to reduce vehicle emissions in our town centre.”


Jonathan Callaway
Deputy Chairman, Putney Society

December 12, 2011