July 29, 2021| News + Events, Past Issues

London Road: there is no kerbside planting and the hedges are past their best.

Take a look at the hedges along your road and what lies between them and the passing cars. Most residents will find that they will have garden bushes on one side and a kerb on the other. If you’re lucky, you will have a grassy patch between you and the garden, but nothing much between you and the road. If you’re very lucky, trees – private or public – will shade your 
walk on a sunny day.

Greenery is not the only thing that accompanies you when you walk and cycle down your street. You also have toxic particulates that rise up from passing tyres, especially where vehicles tend to brake, shredding small particulates of rubber that can reach the lungs and are known carcinogens. This makes junctions and roundabouts dangerous places. Also present are CO2 emissions from passing exhausts, with the honourable exception of electric vehicles. Some of us on busy roads are also subject to noise and house vibration when heavy goods vehicles thunder by at speed.

Amazingly, there is a simple solution to toxic kerbside dangers and they are the brainchild of Professor Kumar who works at the University of Surrey. His solution is cheap, lovely to look at and simple: you plant shrubs, bushes and trees as a barrier and an air purifier. According to Professor Kumar’s research, low-level bushes on the kerb between you and the traffic captures those dangerous particulates and stops most of it rising up into the lungs of cyclist and pedestrians.



Moreover, bushes and then tall trees on your other side (the garden side) will act as a barrier and as an air purifier by absorbing the CO2 and giving it back out as fresh oxygen. This is a part of Nature’s own air conditioning system. Interestingly, some leaves work better than other. Broad leaves are good if you are choosing a new hedge, but prickly rambling ‘open’ stems are not so effective.

How safe are Burpham’s kerbsides?

At first sight, this is a green area rich 
in trees, but frankly, they are in the 
wrong places for this kind of protection. 
Take London Road, for example, as our busiest road: there is no kerbside planting, and the hedges, whilst plentiful, 
are past their best and in poor condition. 
There are stretches of grass which look 
good but, sadly, grass doesn’t deal with 
emissions. As you move towards town, 
there is not even grass and the cycle lanes are downright dangerous. Here, houses sit hard against the road and 
therefore subject to higher levels of CO2 
emissions, noise and vibration. I count a dozen houses on London Road (where 
I live, incidentally) in which I would be fearful to live because of the air quality.

Or take Weylea and Weybrook estates: 
with garden-city style landscaping, open 
green spaces and lots of grass. But their development preceded Kumar’s research so it is largely confined to small (but beautiful) green packets of land. In truth, it needs to be dispersed more widely along roadsides.

However, there are mitigations: develop-
ers built in short-cuts for pedestrians between houses to link roads and avoid 
traffic. Weybrook estate is outstanding in this respect. That ‘avoiding’ strategy started in Merrow Park which has an outstanding pedestrian network to avoid the traffic. That was due to the involvement of the Merrow Residents’ Association at the time.

There’s more we can do in 
Burpham to create pedestrian green shortcuts, the simplest of which is a path around the inside perimeter of the Sutherland Park so we don’t have to walk or cycle alongside heavy traffic in that area. And thank goodness the Burpham Community Association curbed Sainsburys’ plan to dock 
more vehicles here.

The council has, to my mind, done 
a great job of maintaining the parks, but it needs to re-plant and renovate the hedges for safety and plant 
low-level protective shrubs along 
the kerbsides of our busiest roads. 
It needs to advise residents who have no protective planting on their road-facing sides to put some in.

Sue Hackman