St John’s Road’s air pollution monitoring station recorded Nitrogen Dioxide average level of 72 μg/m3 in the first half of 2015, when legal limit is 40;

The monitor recorded 35 pollution “spike” incidents between January and June, where pollution levels soared over 200μg/m3 in one hour, when only 18 spike incidents are legally allowed in one year;

Edinburgh Council expected to determine controversial planning application for new supermarket on St John’s Rd with 140 car parking spaces next Wednesday 21st October;

Edinburgh Council’s Local Transport Strategy commits to clean air across City. 

New official figures for the first half of 2015 show that air pollution levels on St John’s Road have dramatically worsened, making St John’s Road  Scotland’s most polluted Street. [1] The St John’s Road Pollution Zone is one of 5 areas in the city where pollution levels regularly break statutory standards which were due to be met in 2005. [2]


Next Wednesday (21 October), Edinburgh Councillors are expected to determine a planning application for a new supermarket with a giant car park on the corner of St John’s Road/Manse Road, in the heart of the Pollution Zone. The plans would see a 140-capacity, two-storey car park built on top of the store and developer Realis Estates have submitted documents indicating over 3000 vehicle visits would be made to and from the store each weekday. Over 400 people objected to the proposal due to concerns over increased congestion, air pollution, and safety hazards to schoolchildren walking past the site on their way to Corstorphine Primary School.[3]


The new results for St John’s Road

Annual Average levels of Nitrogen Dioxide Air Pollution (numbers in μg/m3; legal limit 40)


2015 (6 month average from 1st January – 30th June) – 72

2014 – 59

2013 – 57

2012 – 58

2011 – 65


Air pollution short term ”spike” episodes, that is, the number of times the hourly average concentration of Nitrogen Dioxide has gone over 200 μg/m3 (permissible number of breaches of hourly average of 200 in one year: 18)


2015 (from January to June only) – 35

2014 – 1

2013 – 8

2012 – 62

2011 – 52


Friends of the Earth Scotland air pollution campaigner Emilia Hanna said,


“Last year, Edinburgh Council approved its new Transport Strategy which commits to achieving clean air across the city. But these results show that levels of air pollution, which were already at illegal levels, are reaching appalling new heights. John’s Road is now Scotland’s most polluted road, and traffic congestion is the reason why. 


“These worrying figures further the case for refusing planning permission for the supermarket. The developer’s plans would see 3000 new vehicle visits to heart of the Pollution Zone each day, worsening traffic congestion and further adding to the soaring levels of pollution. The developer’s documents are riddled with flaws and fail to predict air quality impacts of the supermarket in key locations. We are confident that when Councillors consider the evidence, they will turn down the proposal.


“Air pollution has been linked with asthma attacks, strokes, heart attacks, and cancers. It can lead to children’s lungs not growing to their full potential. Schoolchildren would have have to walk in front of the proposed car park entrance each day on their way to Corstorphine Primary School, if it were to go ahead.


“For the sake of people’s health, St John’s Road needs a transport transformation. Priority should be given to walkers, cyclists and public transport users, and car use should be restricted through a Low Emission Zone, which would require vehicles to meet cleaner emission standards or pay a fine. This would create a cleaner, safer, and more attractive environment where everyone could breathe clean air.”


Local resident Becky Lloyd, who heads up the Corstorphine Residents Action & Information Group and is a mother of two said, 


“The Birmingham-based developers want to build a massive supermarket and multi-storey carpark which is out of scale with its surroundings and which can only be accessed from a street so narrow it is currently one-way. We trust the Council will come to the same conclusion as residents and rule this development entirely inappropriate for the site. Corstorphine is saturated with supermarkets and there is no demand or need for another one.


“This development would cause more congestion and pollution on a street already ranked the second most polluted in Scotland. Buried in the developer’s own figures is the true picture: an estimated 22,000 car trips in and out of the supermarket every week, with up to 70% of this new, rather than passing traffic.”






[1]The second most polluted street for the first 6 months of this year was Glasgow's Hope Street, which recorded average Nitrogen Dioxide levels of 60μg/m3.  These results are official government data which is available at www.scottishairquality.co.uk. The data presented has all been confirmed as “ratified” by the consultancy Ricardo AEA, acting on behalf of the Scottish Government, meaning any technical errors in data due to monitor faults have been removed. The data for the first 6 months of 2015 was ratified on 9th October. Under the “Air Quality (Scotland) Regulations 2000” the standards for NO2 were due to be met in 2005. Under the European “Ambient Air Quality Directive”, the Scottish Government was legally obliged to meet the limits by 2010. It was granted a 5 year extension in respect of Edinburgh so was due to meet the limits by 1 January 2010. 


[2] A map of the St John’s Road Air Pollution Zone can be found at http://www.scottishairquality.co.uk/assets/aqma-maps/Edinburgh_StJohns_Road.jpg.


[3] Edinburgh Council’s Development Management Subcommittee meets next Wednesday 21 October and is expected to determine the planning application at that meeting. Over 400 objections were lodged with the Planning Department. Information about local opposition to the application can be found at https://corstorphinewaitrose.wordpress.com/


[4] In January 2015, Friends of the Earth Scotland revealed the list of streets across Scotland which were in breach of the long-term annual standards for NO2 and PM10. The press release is at http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/air-pollution-streets-2014


[5] Air pollution from PM2.5 is a cause of over 2000 premature deaths each year in Scotland, with over 200 of those deaths in Edinburgh. (see Table 3 on page 20, https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/estimating-local-mortality-bu…). However, it is now understood that air pollution from NO2 has its own death toll. Early estimates are that the air pollution, taking into account both PM2.5 and NO2 impacts, causes over 3,500 deaths every year in Scotland: http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/air-poll-death-toll. The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants is expected to produce its final results on this in December. 


[6] The World Health Organisation has confirmed there is a link between NO2 spikes and mortality, hospital admissions, and respiratory symptoms. “Review of evidence on health aspects of air pollution – REVIHAAP”, available at http://www.euro.who.int/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/182432/e96762-final.pdf.