Independent air quality review claims Redbridge Council leader made ‘demonstrably false claims’ about Tesco Towers
- Credit: Andrew Baker
An independent review of the controversial Goodmayes Tesco development claims Redbridge Council’s leader Jas Athwal made “demonstrably false” claims.
Campaigners opposed to the “Tesco towers” plan commissioned the Centre for Health Services Studies at the University of Kent to review how the controversial development could affect air quality.
The report found the developer’s own prediction for one harmful gas “far exceeds the level at which strong correlations with mortality occur according to contemporary research”.
It also stated that comments made by Cllr Athwal in a cabinet meeting on May 19 about the issue were “inconsistent with objective evidence”.
In the meeting, Cllr Athwal stated that modelling showed levels of polluting gas nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter “will be well below the annual mean level”.
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However, having analysed the developer’s models, the report concludes that “the levels are not only not ‘well below the annual mean level’ but in one case exceed it”.
It adds: “Whilst Jas Athwal is not currently on the planning committee, it is discouraging to see him make statements about current and modelled air quality at the site that are demonstrably false and may predispose others.”
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Regarding the development as a whole, the authors found the development “will worsen air pollution”, noting that Redbridge’s air quality is already “so poor on average that the entire borough has been designated an Air Quality Management Area”.
Speaking to the Local Democracy Reporting Service after this article was first published, Cllr Jas Athwal said he stands by his statement, which “directly reflected council officers’ expert views”.
He said: “My comments were judged to be accurate by air pollution professionals, both those working within our council and independent adjudicators of air pollution levels.
“All developments in Redbridge are subject to strict planning policy and control measures to protect our residents and the environment.
“Councillors from both political parties are well aware of their duty to be impartial and to only take relevant information into account when deciding an application.
“Precautions around air quality are in place and will be considered by the council planning committee when they review the Tesco development.
“If residents have commissioned their own reports these should be presented to the planning committee through the proper channels for review and verification.
“As this is a live planning application it is essential proper process is followed and with that in mind I will no longer be speaking on this matter.”
The review draws attention to potentially harmful particulates in the air. PM10 refers to particulate matter that is 10 micrometres or less in diameter, while PM2.5, or “fine particles”, are less than 2.5 micrometres. A human hair is around 100 micrometres across.
The report adds: “Objective pollution limits in the UK are set far above the levels at which harms occur, which means that objective limits are divorced from the legal duty of care that a local authority has for residents.
“All but one of the developer’s PM10 predictions for the operational phase of the development are within 10 per cent of the WHO health guideline for PM10, and all the developer’s PM2.5 predictions exceed the WHO health guideline for PM2.5.
“The developer’s predictions for NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) far exceed the level at which strong correlations with mortality occur according to contemporary research.”
The report also raised concerns about plans to build a new three-form primary school at the site, stating that “not only will the development negatively impact the health of local children further, but will introduce a fresh cohort of children to damaging levels of air pollution”.
Tesco and Weston Homes plan to build more than 1,200 homes, the new school and a village hall on the site.
Out of the 1,280 homes proposed, 414 will be affordable, with a mixture of social rented, shared ownership and discounted market sale homes.
Responding to the concerns raised by the report, Cllr Sheila Bain, responsible for planning and planning enforcement, said: “We’re committed to delivering high quality developments across the borough and we welcome feedback from all our residents during the planning process.
“Comments on planning applications are always made available to the planning committee so we can ensure that developments meet local need.
“The best way to improve applications and ensure all views are considered is to use the feedback channels we have. Thank you to everyone who has given their views so far.”