‘Life-saving’ scheme to tackle air pollution at Manchester schools

A new pilot scheme will tackle air pollution in school playgrounds located next to major roads in Manchester.

Scientists from Lancaster University have designed a programme which demonstrates how evergreen hedges can be used as a natural shield to reduce the impact of traffic pollution on pupils, and they believe it has the potential to influence national policy.

Research has shown that evergreen hedges planted along the fenceline act as a natural filter, absorbing some of the particulate air pollution generated by passing traffic and the project will test the use of instant hedges with different species, density and leaf shape, to identify the most effective green barrier for school boundaries.

The schools currently only have railings or mesh fencing between their playgrounds and the main road.

During the trial, which will begin this summer and run into the autumn, pollution levels will be monitored in both playgrounds and classrooms to observe what reduction in air pollution levels the hedges help to achieve.

The ‘Protecting Playgrounds’ project will be delivered by Groundwork, with funding from Manchester City Council and Transport for Greater Manchester.

The four selected schools are all located close to main arterial routes within the Greater Manchester Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), which illustrates the most polluted areas of the city.

The four schools are:

·  Abbott Community Primary, Collyhurst (on Rochdale Road).

·  Manchester Communication Academy Primary (Rochdale Road)

·  St Ambrose RC Primary, Chorlton (Princess Parkway)

·  Medlock Primary, Ardwick (A6).

Barbara Maher, Professor of environmental science at Lancaster University, said: ‘This project has the potential to deliver some of the most ground-breaking and important evidence delivered to date in recognising the importance and value that green infrastructure can play in terms of reducing airborne pollution.

‘It could quite literally be a lifesaver for the children of Manchester and of this country.’

Schools have been at the forefront of the momentum to tackle air pollution in recent months.

Last week, a report by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) said the air quality inside and outside primary schools across Europe must be improved to protect children’s health.

The report measured indoor and outdoor air pollutants at seven schools in Lambeth, one of London’s most polluted boroughs, and found nitrogen dioxide (NO2) present inside and outside all classrooms, as well as high levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) inside classrooms.

In May, a survey by charity Living Streets found that around two thirds (65%) of parents of 4-11 year olds are concerned about the effect of air pollution on their child’s health, and two fifths (40%) are specifically concerned about the levels of air pollution around their child’s school or on the school run.