A new pilot scheme which aims to boost air quality in school playgrounds located next to major roads is set to launch in Manchester.
Scientists from Lancaster University have designed a programme which they believe has the potential to transform national policy, by demonstrating how evergreen hedges can be used as a natural shield to reduce the impact of traffic pollution on pupils.
The “Protecting Playgrounds” project – which will be delivered by Groundwork, with funding from Manchester City Council and Transport for Greater Manchester – will produce results which could benefit other schools in Manchester and beyond.
The four schools selected to take part in the initial trial currently only have railings or mesh fencing between their playgrounds and an adjacent main road. Research has shown that evergreen hedges planted along the fence line act as a natural filter, absorbing some of the particulate air pollution generated by passing traffic. The project will test the use of instant hedges with different species, density and leaf shape, in a bid to identify the most effective green barrier for school boundaries.
The trial is set to begin this summer and run into the autumn. During this time pollution levels will be monitored in both playgrounds and classrooms. To observe what reduction in air pollution levels the hedges help to achieve.
The four selected schools are all located close to main arterial routes within the Greater Manchester Air Quality Management Area (AQMA), which illustrates the most polluted areas of the city. Monitoring equipment has already been installed at the participating schools, which are: –
· Abbott Community Primary, Collyhurst (on Rochdale Road)
· Manchester Communication Academy Primary (Rochdale Road)
· St Ambrose RC Primary, Chorlton (Princess Parkway)
· Medlock Primary, Ardwick (A6).
Barbara Maher, Professor of Environmental Science at Lancaster University, said:
“This project has the potential to deliver some of the most ground-breaking and important evidence delivered to date in recognising the importance and value that green infrastructure can play in terms of reducing airborne pollution. It could quite literally be a lifesaver for the children of Manchester and of this country”.
The project will be complemented by ‘citizen science’ activities, including training pupils to help take monitoring samples and input data; devising cleaner routes to school by having pupils wear mobile monitoring devices, in order to measure their exposure to air pollution as they travel to and from school; plus a public awareness-raising campaign about the effects of airborne pollution.
A final report on the project’s findings is planned to be submitted to Manchester City Council in late 2019.