The Bull Ring is the most polluted street in Ludlow

Modelling data has recently been made available for air pollution across the UK. It allows us to map pollution around Ludlow. The modelling in many respects tells us what we already know. That the air pollution hot spots in Ludlow are on Corve Street, the Bull Ring, Old Street and much of the town centre. But it provides numbers on the estimated level of pollution, data that we can use to use in planning the transport future of the town.

The data come from the Central Office of Public interest (COPI), which describes itself as a “creative industry alliance running the national awareness campaigns government should be running.” COPI has created a website at addresspollution.org where everyone can look up the estimated air pollution at their home, workplace or play area. I have used this site to compile a map of air pollution in Ludlow.

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The Bull Ring at the pedestrian crossing between Joules and Brown and Francis is the most polluted street in Ludlow, breaching three World Health Organisation (WHO) targets in 2019. It achieves a score of 60, meaning it is in the 60th percentile of all addresses in the UK. Outside Brown and Francis (SY8 1AB):

  • The annual average of the pollutant PM5 is 8.70 micrograms per cubic metre (mcg/m3); 74% above the WHO limit but below the laxer UK limit.
  • The annual average of the pollutant PM10 is 15.65 mcg/m3. The WHO limit is 15 mcg/m3.
  • The reading for N02 is 28.20 mcg/m3. The WHO limit is 10 mcg/m3.

Despite the pollution hot spot on the Bull Ring, Ludlow is a relatively low pollution town. But given our growing understanding of the health impact of noise pollution, we need to consider reducing pollution in the town centre. It is unlikely that we would qualify for an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) as is in place in central Shrewsbury where there is much heavier traffic.

Shrewsbury AQMA

Other options are to promote active travel, cycling and walking, along with electric buses and increasing the availability of EV charging points.

The COPI survey did not estimate noise pollution, which also has a major impact on health and quality of life.

The pollutants

PM2.5 are particles of less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter. PM2.5 particles are invisible to the naked eye and small enough to pass through the lungs, into the bloodstream, and into your organs. Generally, they come from the combustion of solid and liquid fuels, through power generation, domestic heating and in-vehicle engines. They can cause asthma, respiratory inflammation and even promote cancers. The WHO limit is 5 micrograms per cubic metre but the UK limit is 20 micrograms. Nowhere addresses in Ludlow are below the WHO limit but everywhere is below the UK limit.

PM10 are particles of less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter. They can cause wheezing, bronchitis and reduce lung development.

NO2. Exposure (for a year or more) to 30 micrograms leads to a 5.5% increased risk of disease related mortality.

Technical notes

Data. COPI commissioned a national 20m2 model from the air pollution modelling team at Imperial College’s Environmental Research Group.

Scoring. The numbers on the map are the percentiles based on the modelled pollution at each address compared to all addresses at every other address in the UK:

  • White: Address within the 0th-19th percentile.
  • Address is within the 20th-39th percentile.
  • Address is within the 40th-59th percentile (none in Ludlow).
  • Address is within the 60th-79th percentile.
  • Address is within the 80th-99th percentile (none in Ludlow).

Baseline. The data are from 2019 because that was the last “normal” year for traffic before the pandemic. Weekday vehicle travel, according to one report, has not yet returned to pre-pandemic levels in the UK but experience in Ludlow suggests that traffic is pretty much as it was before April 2020.