On Air: Interview with Islington’s Paul Clift
After the successful Camden & Islington air quality summit earlier this month we caught up with co-organiser Paul Clift to get his thoughts on how the summit had gone and also hear about some of the new initiatives in Islington including the groundbreaking borough-wide 20mph zone.
(KCL) – What lead you to working in the air quality field?
(PC) - Post graduation in the early 90’s I started my career dealing with air quality management & pollution control, inspecting some fairly major industrial processes such as the Ford tractor plant. After that I moved to Islington and spent some time in a specialist housing team as a generalist officer (when Islington had neighbourhood offices) before returning to pollution control work about 8 years ago.
(KCL) – The joint Camden & Islington air quality summit earlier this month was very successful, were you expecting such a high turnout?
(PC) - I thought the turn out and interest from the public who attended the event was fantastic. We had hoped for a good turnout and had really pushed the event through all the relevant channels, but actually seeing the Council Chamber as full as that was really encouraging and very positive.
The presentations and stalls all added to the excellent event (thanks to everyone) and it was really well managed by colleagues at Camden. We’re now talking with Camden to decide on how to build on this success and take it forward.
(KCL) – Islington Council is about to introduce a borough-wide 20mph limit. Can you tell us how this came about and what effect you think it might have on Islington’s air quality?
(PC) - This is an exciting initiative with Islington becoming the first borough in the country with a 20mph speed limit on all side roads.
The main aims of the project are to boost safety for pedestrians, cyclists and road users (the number of people killed or seriously injured on Islington’s roads fell from 227 in 2001 to 77 in 2009, thought to be partly as a result of lower speeds) but we’re also expecting to improve quality of life for local residents by reducing noise and air pollution.
Islington will be assessing the local changes and perhaps by reducing the speeds and improving or changing people’s perception of road safety, we’ll encourage plenty of modal shift.
Living Streets and the road safety charity Brake have supported and worked with us on the scheme with Living Streets commenting of the benefits of ‘safe and vibrant places.. not just corridors for traffic’, which I think is something we can all relate to in our communities.
(KCL) – What other projects are you working on at the moment?
(PC) - I’m working on a few exciting projects with airTEXT at the moment to accompany my continuing search for long term funding for the project! Those in the airTEXT consortium will know of the efforts that we go to in keeping the project running from year to year.
airTEXT is a partner in Joaquin (joint air quality initiative) which is part of an EU North West Europe project called INTERREG. The work package we’re involved with is looking to implement and evaluate measures to improve urban air quality.
The work package includes low emission zones in Antwerp and Amsterdam; traffic lights sequencing in Leicester; a clean bus tender project in the district of Holland and the airTEXT hotspot project here in London.
We’re currently discussing the project with the Greater London Authority and Transport for London to see if we can use the airTEXT forecasts (perhaps with an extended forecasting period) to trigger a London ‘Spare the Air’ campaign. Spare the air has been a great success in the San Francisco Bay area and it would be great if Londoners could be engaged in the same way to bring about air quality improvement here.
The recent Environmental Audit Commission commented on the importance of public engagement and public participation, ‘The public are also a key player in the delivery of cleaner air’ and this project could be the beginnings of something very positive.
(KCL) – What do you think the future holds for air quality in London?
(PC) - I feel optimistic that the profile of air pollution is increasing, particularly the health impacts and we may reach a critical mass of attention from the air quality community, public health colleagues and the public to drive and demand change.
There are changes at local level in public health, which may bring about closer working arrangements between people working in public health and air quality management (perhaps through the health and well being boards or JSNA) and with references in the department of health outcomes framework document to life years lost from fine dust as measured by fine particulate matter combined with the work of COMEAP, the EAC & the wider air quality community, the focus on driving air quality improvements does seem to be there.
Our thanks to Paul for speaking to us this month.
Full video of the summit including links to all the presentations is available here.
The summit was covered widely in local London papers and some reports are linked to in the ‘From the web’ section below.