Over the last few years, the environmental phenomenon which has been labelled a ‘climate crisis’ by scientists, media and politicians has received heightened coverage and attention, leading many to seek new methods to ‘do their bit’ in the campaign to reduce the impact that they have on the environment. The local council in Kingston Upon-Thames has announced two new local plans that aim to promote a healthy and flourishing local environment.

 The council recently declared that they have joined the ‘Breathe London’ trial, a scheme which gives London Boroughs access to an advanced network of air quality sensors and pollution data. ‘Breathe London’ is an organisation which seeks to provide “affordable, easy to install and maintain” air quality sensors called ‘nodes’ as an alternative to larger and more expensive equipment known as ‘reference-grade analysers’ which often require separate roadside infrastructure. The group’s website says that their small sensors are not as accurate as the larger ones, but they offset this by inputting the data collected into an online network.

 Accurate and accessible data is a necessity for any government, but especially local governments with limited budgets, and is very useful for planning and assessing the affects of current and future projects on the environment. Kingston Council hopes to use the data gathered from the ‘Breathe London’ network to improve their ‘School Street’ schemes which aim to protect schoolchildren by improving air quality on school routes. The data will shed light on the effects of different modes of transport and movement patterns in addition to the quality of the air we breathe.

 Matthew Hill, Assistant Director, Highways, Transport and Regulatory Services at Kingston Council said that “This type of monitoring will enable us to determine whether a School Street scheme is the right option for the school and importantly help compare air quality between schools across the borough. Access to more accurate live data will give us a clearer picture of overall air quality and congestion levels, helping us to identify pollution hotspots that can be tackled through School Streets or other schemes.”

 Sensors will initially be placed near the entrances to and in the areas surrounding select primary schools. However, the developing field known as the ‘Internet of Things’ which utilises and connects physical devices with each other has been criticised for potential privacy and security implications.

 A “climate emergency” was declared in the borough in June 2019, making Kingston one of more than 900 local governments from across the world to have done so. The council have said that they “want to take the lead on a local level and set an example for other authorities around the country and beyond to follow.”