Technology the key to pollution debate as app exposes ‘dirty air’ neighbourhoods 

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London’s housing market faces being shaken up by a new website which will tell homebuyers the level of air  pollution at properties they are viewing


Host: TV presenter Kirsty Wark introduced speakers (Picture: Nigel Howard)

A team of computer programmers have created a prototype site called Pollupla as a way for house-hunters to check air quality levels simply by entering a postcode.

Property values could rise or fall based on pollution if the web application is released onto the market.

Pollupla was one of several innovations discussed at the Standard’s Clean London debate last night sponsored by ENGIE.

The panel explored how new and existing technologies can be used to rally Londoners to demand better air quality around the capital.

Michael Liebreich, chairman of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, has funded Pollupla and another venture where air quality sensors are added to bicycles to identify the least polluted cycle routes.

He said: “It’s no longer acceptable for businesses or opinion leaders to say ‘it would be lovely to lower pollution but we can’t do that’. We know the technology exists.”

Isabel Dedring, deputy mayor for transport at City Hall, said: “Politicians have to have technological solutions to support that change but we need good policy that is politically deliverable.

“One thing that influences things is pressure. But I don’t see the broad base of pressure on this subject that I would like to. We don’t have people coming up to us saying there needs to be radical change.”

Ms Dedring backed plans to pedestrianise Oxford Street, one of Europe’s most polluted roads, but said it was managed by Westminster council rather than Transport for London.

Robert Rigby, Westminster council’s deputy cabinet member for sustainability, told her he wanted TfL to do more around Oxford Street by making vehicles more environmentally friendly. He added: “We do have days in Oxford Street and Regent Street where we do close down the streets to encourage more pedestrians to come.”

Simon Birkett, founder of the Clean Air in London campaign, said diesel vehicles should be charged a levy during peak times so cyclists and pedestrians can reap the benefits of lower pollution. He added: “We could actually give the money to people cycling and walking. That’s what we should be doing and boy, that blows your mind. It would be a real revolution here.”

Mr Birkett also called on City Hall to publish a report into the number of deaths — estimated at 7,500 — caused by nitrogen dioxide emitted by diesel vehicles,  pinpointing where they occur each year.

The debate, hosted by TV presenter Kirsty Wark,  was held at Second Home, a workspace for start-ups in East  London co-founded by former Downing Street technology advisor Rohan Silva. He said using new technology to tackle air pollution would be good “not just for quality of life but for the  economy”.

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