Innovative air quality and traffic sensors rolled out in Merton in line with COP26  

Merton Council is installing air quality sensors in priority locations around the borough in November to support its ambition to tackle toxic air pollution and make Merton a net-zero borough by 2050. This is also in line with the UN Climate Change Conference COP26, which ends on the 12 November. 

The 68 sensors will be the highest number of Breathe London Network sensors across the capital. The Breathe London partnership between the GLA and leading academic institution, Imperial College, runs across London and raises awareness of toxic air pollution, enabling boroughs to take decisive action. 

Alongside the air quality monitors, the council will also install 68 Vivacity digital traffic sensors to provide essential data. To do so, the council is collaborating with artificial intelligence (AI) company Vivacity Labs to use their Internet of Things (IoT) technology. 

The initiative is part of the South London Partnership’s InnOvaTe Project. It is funded by London Councils and runs in partnership across five South London boroughs including Merton. 

The Breathe London air quality monitors and Vivacity traffic sensors will provide accurate data and better insights into pavement usage by pedestrians in town centres, different transport methods including traffic and cyclist movement patterns and their impact on air quality. 

The patterns can inform planning on how to improve the road network and the urban environment to make the borough smarter, safer and more sustainable. No personal data is collected and the technology cannot be used for enforcement purposes. 

With the borough transitioning to a new normal following the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the sensors will provide accurate data on changing behaviour, including how residents choose to travel within their local areas.

Councillor Rebecca Lanning, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health said: 

“Toxic air sadly kills 9,000 people in London every year, and can exacerbate chronic illnesses such as asthma, especially in children.  To tackle air pollution, we are implementing these important measures that will help us make informed decisions based on local transport and air quality data. The data will also help residents understand the pollutants that may affect them and the health of their families and equip them with the information that helps them to plan their journeys better by reducing exposure and factors that contribute to poor air quality.” 

Monitors will be installed in town centres including Morden, Mitcham, Wimbledon, Colliers Wood and Raynes Park. They will also be around schools and all routes in and out of the borough.  

Councillor Martin Whelton, Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration and Climate Emergency said:  

“Many residents are rightfully concerned about climate change and how it impacts on their lives, especially at a local level. By making changes to their lifestyle, we can also work towards becoming a net-zero borough. On the journey towards net zero, it is vital residents are involved- which is why we have set up the Climate Action Group. This provides a forum for residents, businesses and organisations to develop projects that help reduce carbon emissions. 

“We are inviting people of all backgrounds from across Merton to use their skills and expertise to help us find shared solutions to tackling climate change. You can join our Climate Action Group – this is a volunteer group where people can bring together their skills to make a real difference.”  

Councillor Martin Whelan next to one of the Breathe London air quality monitors at St Peters and St Paul’s Primary Cricket Green (opposite the school)