Air Quality around West Jesmond Primary School – Autumn 2018

The area around West Jesmond Primary School is very busy with traffic from the three schools on Tankerville terrace, which SPACEforJesmond believe should be a priority for our community to address. High levels of traffic around the schools – some from within Jesmond and as little as 300 metres away – create an unsafe and polluted environment for our children.

In order to quantify pollution levels, last winter SPACEforJesmond used a portable air quality monitor to sample the air around Jesmond, primarily on the school run and around West Jesmond Primary school. This revealed “hotspots” of pollution in areas where it might be expected, such as Osborne Road and Tankerville Terrace. The portable air quality monitor measured particulate matter (PM) of various sizes, all of which have a detrimental effect on our health. The monitor did not however measure Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) which is the focus of much attention at the moment due its harmful effects, especially on children, who are still developing physically. NO2, a bi-product of diesel combustion, has an impact on respiratory health and development and has been indicated as a cause of obesity in children.

The air quality monitor is mounted on a lamp-post and solar powered

Thanks to the Urban Observatory, a lamp-post mounted air quality monitor was installed outside West Jesmond Primary School for the start of the new school year. This sensor measures, amongst other things, Nitrogen Dioxide (not to be confused with Nitrous Oxide, a.k.a. laughing gas).

Urban Observatory air pollution monitor outside West Jesmond Primary School, Jesmond



The results from the first school term highlight the impact of the morning school run. The peak value on a weekday occurs between 8am-9am, when the level of pollution doubles (44ug/m3) compared to the background levels in the middle of the night. The levels rise less dramatically for the afternoon run, presumably due to the mix of after-school clubs and different approaches to picking children up at the end of the day.


West Jesmond Primary Hourly mean, NO2 ug/m3, weekdays only during the first half of the 2018 autumn term

What’s really interesting to note is that, on weekdays, the area around West Jesmond Primary is almost as polluted as the A1058 Coast Road. The daily mean value for the Coast Road NO2 during this period was 31.5ug/m3 (measured at the Cradlewell Urban Observatory high precision air monitor). The value for the sensor at WJPS was 30.2ug/m3.

So, what does this mean? It’s important to note that there is nothing illegal about these levels of pollution – the monitor outside WJPS is not a legally designated site, and the annual mean limit set by the EU is 40ug/m3. After a year’s worth of monitoring, it will be possible to compare these levels against the legal limits.

Despite this, the data indicates that the morning rush around Tankerville Terrace effectively doubles the pollution levels and that for the first school term, weekday pollution here was similar to the A1058 at Cradlewell, which is the location of a DEFRA network station, the measurements of which are close to breaking the legal annual limit on NO2, and have done in previous years.

Diesel combustion is also temperature sensitive and many of the pollution removing features are turned off in cold weather and this is true whether the vehicle is moving or idling. It is common to see people idling for periods of time outside the school – likely to keep the heater working – and this produces pollution too. A colder spell could really increase pollution in the area and SPACEforJesmond will continue to monitor this site.

Our view

In our view it’s vital that councillors and council officers take action to protect children on the school run by reducing polluting traffic and enabling walking and cycling to school. Children who are driven, some from very close by, are receiving a double-dose of negative health impacts through inactivity and exposure to pollutants. This is being already addressed in schemes elsewhere in the UK – such as Hackney School Streets and Edinburgh School Streets – and Newcastle should follow their lead, as a UNICEF child friendly city, to do what is right for children in Jesmond.

Monitoring Air Quality in Jesmond

Air Quality is an issue which has been getting a lot of press recently. On the back of the Volkswagen scandal there has been increased public scrutiny of what is coming out of the tailpipe of motor vehicles. However, while there is a focus from certain sectors on cleaner, greener cars there are many journeys which we can make on foot or bike instead, with all the well documented benefits this brings. Providing local evidence of pollution levels can help make the case for prioritising walking and cycling in Jesmond, but this is not possible to do without specialist equipment…

To try and quantify pollution in Jesmond, SPACEforJesmond have taken the opportunity to work with Sense My Street, a project run by Aare Puussaar at Newcastle University’s Open Lab.

I spent December 2017 walking around Jesmond with a Fidas Frog portable Air Quality monitor and a GPS tracker, to find out what the Air Quality is like in Jesmond, and importantly, how this changes in particular streets, especially at busy times. An area of focus was West Jesmond Primary School on Tankerville Terrace, around school run time. Tankerville Terrace is often very busy and at some times, a complete standstill. There are often idling vehicles which become backed up along the length of the street.

While Petrol and Diesel vehicles produce pollutants of varying types, the Frog measures particulate matter (PM) – very fine dust which is emitted as a by-product of diesel combustion among other things.

The results are now available, and very interesting.

Note: The colour gradient does not indicate anything dangerous or illegal about the measurement. The World Health Organisation do not have a “safe limit” for PM exposure and EU legal levels are not measured using the method employed here.

It is possible to see various “hotspots” on the map. These are:

  • Tankerville Terrace near West Jesmond Primary School
  • Sections of Osborne Road
  • Adjacent to the Royal Grammar School
  • Sandyford road adjacent Civic Centre

To get a fuller picture of PM levels in Jesmond would require more intensive monitoring, but as an indicator of the exposure I have as a commuter on the school run, it seems that the further away from the traffic I am, the lower my exposure – which is exactly what we would expect. So, to lower my exposure, I can try and avoid the main roads.

However, two of the “hotspots” are around schools, and there’s no way that children can avoid these areas. The only way to improve the air quality is to reduce the amount of motor traffic near the school, and to do that, we need to shift more journeys to walking, scooting, cycling and public transport.