Thursday, 14 April 2016

Former Hammersmith Society Chair Launches Clean Air Petition

London Fog - how it used to be
Rosemary Pettit, former chair of the Hammersmith Society, has launched a petition to clean up London's air. The petition is titled: "Mayor of London: Clean Up London's Air", and aims to persuade whoever wins in the May elections to prioritise the improvement of air quality in London.

Rosemary was appointed by our Council to be chair of the the Hammersmith & Fulham Commission on Air Quality last year.  Her position is non-political and she takes no position on who should win in May.

Of course, London's air quality is nowhere near as bad as it used to be back when "pea soup" fogs (really smogs) regularly made London's air unbreathable. As TS Elliot wrote in 1920, almost a hundred years ago:

The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes
Licked its tongue into the corners of the evening,
Lingered upon the pools that stand in drains,
Let fall upon its back the soot that falls from chimneys,
Slipped by the terrace, made a sudden leap,
And seeing that it was a soft October night,
Curled once about the house, and fell asleep

These lines were written about a London that exists only in memory - a London that burned dirty coal through thousands of chimneys to stay warm.  And why not? England was built on coal; we had plenty of it, and it kept the miners in work. Burning coal was your patriotic duty.

Today, by contrast, clean central heating and gas fires are commonplace, and our modern problem with pollution is mainly about vehicle fumes - especially diesel emissions. Anyone who lives near Shepherd's Bush Green or the Hammersmith flyover will know how unbreathable the air can be.
A design classic, but with plenty of diesel fumes

Still, bad though things are, even this is a vast improvement on how nasty London's air was when I was a child. The old Routemaster buses used to belch clouds of blue diesel smoke into the traffic and I can remember having to hold my breath just to cross the street.

Things are better today, but it seems that some of the worst air in the country is to be found in our Borough. According to Stephen Cowan, head of our Council, Hammersmith Flyover is "the fifth worst air pollution black-spot in the country" - not something to be proud of.

How bad is the pollution near you? You can find out about air quality near your home by checking out this useful website and entering your postcode.

To find out more about the petition, follow the link below:

The Bush Telegraph offers a personal view on life in Shepherd's Bush. If you would like to contribute a story about our neighbourhood, email us

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