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Case Study 1: Pepys Estate in London Borough of Lewisham

Environmental Justice or Inequality?

Environmental Justice

Relevant Themes

Noise pollution from a local scrapyard near the centre of the estate and in close proximity to a Primary and Nursery School.

Profile of the community

Estate community in LB Lewisham, characterised by high rise tower blocks and social housing.

Barriers to resolve & what was done

Barriers: On the Pepys Estate, residents and members of the local Community Forum expressed concern about disturbingly high levels of noise associated with a local scrapyard, often continuing outside normal working hours. This noise was affecting the quality of life of residents up to 350 metres from the scrapyard. Residents explained to project workers that they have been trying to deal with this problem for over six years.

Response: London Sustainability Exchange recruited four resident Ambassadors within the Pepys Estate community. Ambassadors were then trained by project partners London 21 Sustainability Network and University College London (who also provided equipment) in the use of noise monitoring equipment and data recording. They then observed and recorded noise volumes and characteristics in various locations surrounding the scrapyard at different times of day. In total Ambassadors recorded 385 three-minute meter readings over a seven-week period. 

Project partners, UCL and London 21, analysed the data and illustrated the results using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) mapping technology. The noteworthy outcomes were then presented to representatives from London Borough of Lewisham and the Environment Agency in order to inform their approach to addressing the issue.

SMART targets/ indicators of inequality

The following presented issues of inequality for residents:

  • Proximity of industrial activities to residential and education sites
  • Perceived or real increase in intensity of operation at scrap yard
  • Sale and private redevelopment of a tower block which is isolated from noise nuisance and adjacent to the Thames.

Indicators include noise level meter readings analysed using GIS. Data was transferred into noise pollution maps and revealed a clear picture of the actual ambient noise levels and the affected area.


The London Borough of Lewisham and the Environment Agency were inspired to explore the issue further following the work done by the community. After seeing the results of the Ambassadors survey the Environment Agency appointed an acoustic consultant to carry out a detailed analysis of noise from the scrapyard. The residents who carried out the survey met the consultant to share their information and have worked with the council to agree an action plan moving forward.


This has provided an opportunity for greater community engagement and encouraged speaking up for an improved environment. It has also provided evidence that a visually engaging ‘citizen science’ survey technique such as mapping can provide information that local service providers can effectively respond to.


Gathering evidence through a visual format such as mapping can effectively engage and enable residents and stakeholders to take action.
It was made clear that 'social surveys' would complement noise surveying in future and that there is definitely a potential benefit of extending such surveys to a wider audience.
Contact: London Sustainability Exchange 0207 234 9400


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