Health effects of air pollution

Improving air quality in Lambeth

We have partnered with Gehl to transform Durham Street into a safe and well-connected crossing that prioritises residents’ health.

Key partnership information

Partner: Gehl

Funding amount: £125,000

Duration: 18 months

Programme: Health effects of air pollution


What we are doing together

During the early stage of our programme to address the health effects of air pollution we’ve sought to build our understanding of how people interact with, and understand, air pollution in their day-to-day lives.  

To enable us to develop efficient interventions for people who are most susceptible to the health effects of air pollution, we need to first to understand where people are most exposed.  

In 2020 we began a collaboration with Danish architects, Gehl, and the Bernard Van Leer Foundation to help us understand how people move around the London borough of Lambeth.  

Over nine months, Gehl worked with The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP) to engage with and observe people in Vauxhall. They then worked with the local community, Lambeth Council, councillors and air pollution experts to develop three pilot concepts which could help to reduce exposure to air pollution in Vauxhall. 

How might urban design improve our most vulnerable residents’ experience of neighbourhoods with poor air quality?

To continue the work, we re-partnered with Gehl at the start of 2021 to work on a project with Transport for London (TfL) to explore the feasibility of implementing one of the pilot concepts on Durham Street. 


Aims of the partnership 

The aim of the partnership is to identify novel approaches to changing our local built environment to reduce air pollution and people’s exposure to it.  

The objective for the Durham Street pilot is to explore the potential of street level changes to improve traffic flow and reduce air pollution associated with vehicle idling.  

The vision is to turn Durham Street from a well-used and popular street that prioritises car efficiency – with two schools experiencing the worst pollution levels in the neighbourhood – to a safe and well-connected crossing that prioritises residents’ health and wellbeing. The intervention will connect schools, parks and playgrounds in a pedestrian friendly way  

Central to the Durham Street pilot concept is an XL crossing, which has been designed to help children cross safely. The crossing is responsive to peak hours of car and pedestrian commuting hours. 

The Durham Street pilot concept aims to: 

  • Decrease the time spent crossing the busy intersection for pedestrians 
  • increase efficiency for pedestrians using Durham Street as a walking or cycling route 
  • reduce traffic challenges for drivers turning onto Durham Street from both directions 
  • and increase the feeling of safety for walking and cycling for people using Kennington Lane and Durham Street daily. 


Connection to our strategy

Reducing how much air pollution people are exposed to – particularly those who are susceptible to the health effects of air pollution, like children – is a priority for the develop phase of the programme.  

This partnership focuses on understanding the behaviour of children and families. Children are more likely to be affected by air pollution due to relatively higher breathing and metabolic rates as well as the immaturity of their lung and immune system. 

We selected the area of Vauxhall, and specifically the wards of Prince’s and Oval, as the location for this partnership as it is a densely populated neighbourhood with a high number of primary and nursery schools and high levels of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution. 

At this stage of the programme, we want to explore where and how we should intervene in our built environment. As urban design interventions are costly and complex, we want to understand how relatively minor interventions can help reduce air pollution and exposure to air pollution.  This partnership provides an opportunity to build this understanding and test the impact of changes to streets on air quality in and around nearby schools.  

More about Gehl

Gehl is a global leader in people-centred urban design with studios in Copenhagen, New York and San Francisco.

Visit Gehl's website