• A Public-Centered Approach to Curbing Air Pollution: Talking with Canterbury Air Quality Lead Kelly Haynes

Air Monitoring

A Public-Centered Approach to Curbing Air Pollution: Talking with Canterbury Air Quality Lead Kelly Haynes

Oct 24 2022

In March, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced the recipients of this year’s Air Quality Grants, and Canterbury City Council was one of them. “It’s an exciting time for Canterbury,” Kelly Haynes, the Council’s Principal Policy Officer, told EnvirotechOnline - and it’s no exaggeration.

Besides the Council’s innovative real-time air monitoring network that will publish data live and accessible to the public alongside communication campaigns with the aim of changing behaviours, the authority is gearing up for a wide-ranging municipal redesign, of which the reduction of air pollution is a central aim, began this week – if any readers are interested, a public consultation for these plans began this week.

Recently, EnvirotechOnline sat down with Kelly to get all of the details on these interesting developments.

Could you tell us a little about the project you’ll be funding with your grant? 

Of course! So, the project is to install a small network of air pollution sensors in Canterbury’s Air Quality Management Area, which covers the main ring-road where all traffic passes around and through Canterbury. The sensors will monitor levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide, and they’ll be operating 24 hours a day. We’ll have the network installed and operating for a period of 5 years, so that we can gather the data and look at any trends, to monitor the outcome of any interventions that the authority undertakes in the city centre. 

We’ll be reporting the data on Kent Air, signposting it for the public and using the data to create behavioural change campaigns, focussing on the reduction of particulate emissions as well as nitrogen oxide emissions by impacting behaviours surrounding road transport and household burning, in particular.

What the sort of sensors will you be using for this project? 

We’ll be using six PRAXIS Urban Sensors, manufactured by South Coast Science, to monitor PM2.5, PM10 and nitrogen dioxides. They’re not huge pieces of kit, they’re quite small, white boxes, weighing about 4 kg and measuring 25x20cm, that we’ll attach to street lights. They’re powered directly through these lights, connected to the electricity supply.

How are you going to manage the data for real-time reporting? 

As I mentioned, we’re using Kent Air as our platform to publish the data and Ricardo, the company that manages the network, are going to be doing all of the data-management for this project. The data will be QAQC-corrected with a lot of automated checking and correction in order to providing fifteen-minute average data sets for each and every unit. Then, the data will be displayed on Kent Air’s website within a separate tab for members of the public to access these instant measurements. 

We’re at the very early stages, the work to deploy the sensors hasn’t yet been undertaken. So, there’ll be lots of work for us to do to decide how exactly we present this information correctly. At the moment, Kent Air has continuous monitoring stations, the data from which are available for the public to see, but we’ll be the first authority in Kent to have sensors installed and reporting in this new way.

Explain a little more about the nature of the education and communication campaigns that are a part of the project. 

First of all, we really want to explain in a simple way what the project is and how the project works, so we’ll be doing some explainer videos tackling what the sensors are, where they’re located, how they work and what information they actually record. We’d like members of the public to really understand and to get more people using the Kent Air website, by generating some wider interest in air quality.We’re hoping that when the sensors are up and gathering data, we can present the public with genuinely useful information. As I said, they’re located in an area of really busy road traffic, really congested areas - in fact, a sensor will be located directly outside of a school, as we’re really interested in how travel behaviours impact air pollution; traffic, the patterns of people’s driving behaviour, their commute, the school run, these are some of the things that we’re interested in targeting as part of our communication campaigns. We’re also interested in household burning. Because our sensors will measure particulates, we’d like to attempt to link up the reporting of data with changing behaviours, particularly in the reduction of garden bonfires.

I think something that we’re really keen to do is make the communications really engaging and innovative. We’re working with a marketing and communications agency to try to look at different ways of promoting the network and getting the data from the sensors communicated in a unique way. I think the general public aren’t that aware of air pollution, it’s not something in which the public are all that interested, so we’d like to do something a bit different in order to grab people’s interest and get them to understand some of those changes that they can make to help reduce emissions. 

What can you tell us about the future of Canterbury City Council’s plans for improving air quality? 

It’s a really exciting time at Canterbury, because we’ve got a new local plan that’s being developed and will begin public consultation on 24th October. Within this new plan, we’re looking at changing the way that traffic travels around Canterbury and through Canterbury, we’re looking at restricting access for vehicles and making active travel much easier, improving public transport - so, quite radical, long-term changes, many of which are based on similar cities where they’ve moved towards a model where traffic is diverted away from the city centre, allowing more place-making and low traffic rates. These are quite big infrastructural changes that won’t be short-term improvements, but we’re certainly starting that process to enable all of those movements to be done in a much more sustainable way. Similarly, with new developments, as well, we’re making sure that they have access to services that will avoid the need to travel by car everywhere. It’s a big change in culture. Like I said, it’s quite an exciting time. 

And finally, what do you think the UK, as a whole, should be prioritising when it comes to air quality in the coming years? 

Having worked on the Canterbury plan, enabling people to move around by more sustainable means is a key focus. We do work on electric vehicles, as well, so that’s part of the focus of our transport strategy, but electric vehicles aren’t the silver bullet, they’re not the thing that’s going to get us out of this issue. The technology that’s coming forward in terms of mobility as a service and autonomous vehicles, this is something that I think we should be prioritising, for sure.  

If you’d like to keep up to date with air quality projects in the UK, stay right here on EnvirotechOnline. 

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