A study of 146 towns in Britain has ranked Luton last for air pollution. While other areas create more pollution, Luton’s tight streets make it slower to disperse, increasing risks to health.
At the opposite end of the scale, Milton Keynes’ wide and leafy boulevards presents a low risk of air pollution.
Professor Rob MacKenzie from Birmingham University explains: “What we’re interested in is not just how much pollution is produced, but how much is in the air. Our study shows how effective the particular urban form of a city is in dispersing air pollution.”
This is bad news for Luton, although from a ‘glass half full’ perspective, coming last means that we can only improve from here. LEAF will be looking for projects to address our dirty air, and if you are aware of interesting local initiatives around air pollution, please let us know about them.
Because the problem is to do with Luton’s street layout and buildings, there are no immediate solutions. Tree planting is a real science in urban areas, and badly placed street trees can trap pollution and make dispersal harder, so that’s not a quick fix either. The best solutions will be in encouraging greater use of public transport, and more active forms of transport – especially around schools, where idling diesels are a major source of air pollution.