UCL Engineering


What's in the air?

Monitoring development to protect communities’ health.

Air quality monitoring device

14 February 2020

Recent and planned construction projects affecting Somers Town, a residential area in Camden north of Euston Road and bounded by St Pancras and Euston stations, have raised concerns among residents about negative impacts on their community.

Due to various factors including heavy road traffic, diesel trains, ageing building infrastructure and planning leading to street canyons and pollution hotspots, much of the area already has illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide and high levels of health-harming pollutants including airborne particulates.

Residents fear upcoming infrastructure and construction projects such as High Speed 2 (HS2), Crossrail 2, and British Library extension will increase air quality problems. The Somers Town Neighbourhood Forum (STNF) are therefore working on a neighbourhood plan with an urgent interest in how to improve air quality in the area.

The STNF invited the Engineering Exchange (EngEx) to support their investigations into air quality and to identify potential interventions.

Funded by UCL’s Knowledge Exchange and Innovation Funding, EngEx and STNF ran a co-design process with STNF members to develop a list of planning recommendations that reduce the harmful impacts of the upcoming construction and prioritize the spending of the Community Infrastructure Levy, a planning charge paid by developers to local authorities.

Outputs include fact sheets, a ranked list of actions, and an analytical report. The report will address the two most urgent points: evaluating current monitoring of air quality in Somers Town and future needs compared to best practice; and reviewing the air quality forecasts in the Air Quality Assessments for recent developments, compared to current air quality.

STNF will use the outcomes of the debate to inform their neighbourhood plan and to identify actions that will have the greatest positive impacts for their community.

This is part of a wider piece of work between UCL and STNF looking at the cumulative impact of construction work in the Euston area on residents’ health and wellbeing.