Air Quality report slams UK failure to tackle air pollution

Air Quality report slams UK failure to tackle air pollution

The Environmental Audit Committee has slammed the UK’s failure to seriously tackle air pollution in a new report, published today[1]. Campaigners are warning that ‘red tape cutting’, in combination with increasingly pro-development planning rules, are condemning more and more communities to poor air quality.

Campaigners from Biofuelwatch [2], Breathe Clean Air Group [3] and Mossley Environmental Action Group[4] warn that successive government changes to planning and Environmental permitting rules and guidance, coupled with cuts to local authority budgets, have made it all but impossible to protect public health from dirty developments. The groups believe that government promises to tackle air pollution are meaningless as long as planning and permitting rules continue to put developers’ financial interests above people’s health.

Biofuelwatch has been supporting over a dozen communities opposing dirty power stations, often located in areas that are already heavily polluted. Campaigners have witnessed first-hand how planning and permitting rules have been increasingly stacked against local residents, environmental groups and even local authorities that try to oppose developments on public health grounds.

Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch explains: “For a cash-strapped local authority, the cheapest and financially safest option is, by far, always to approve developments, however polluting they are. Where local authorities have put the health of communities and compliance with legal air quality limits first, many have seen decisions overturned by the government and some have faced paying significant legal expenses. So-called simplified planning rules and ‘red tape’ cutting actually mean more deaths and illness from air pollution.

Peter Kilvert, Chair of the Trafford-based Breathe Clean Air Group (BCAG) highlights the experience of his own community. BCAG lost their campaign to stop planning permission for an incinerator after the Secretary of State overturned the local authority’s decision to reject it. He explains: “Despite the unanimous rejection of the incinerator application by Councillors, the Secretary of State found that it could not be refused under planning rules simply because the Environment Agency had granted a permit for the plant. When questioned, the Environment Agency confirmed that they have never ever refused a permit for any incinerator, regardless of the location.

The Breathe Clean Air Group are currently trying to stop a coalbed methane scheme in the same area and fear that public health concerns could once more be set aside.

Donna Liley from the Mossley Environmental Action Group speaks about her and her community’s long-standing struggle to protect themselves from contaminated wood dust: “Since a woodchipping plant set up in Mossley, residents have been complaining of multiple health problems, which studies show can be caused by breathing in carcinogen wood dust and known contaminates such as heavy metals. Yet we have been unable to get any help whatsoever from the authorities, including from the Environment Agency.

The groups point out that the same pro-development planning and permitting rules apply to all types of polluting developments, including fracking, road-building and all types of power stations.

Contacts:

Almuth Ernsting, Biofuelwatch, Tel 0131-6232600

Peter Kilvert, Breathe Clean Air Group, 0161-7483123

Donna Liley, Mossley Environmental Action Group, 07939-848994

Notes:

[1] http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmenvaud/212/212.pdf

[2] Biofuelwatch is a not-for-profit grassroots organisation set up to raise awareness of the negative impacts of industrial biofuels and bioenergy http://biofuelwatch.org.uk/

[3] The Breathe Clean Air Group is a local residents group in Urmston, Trafford that formed to oppose Peel Energy’s plans for a waste wood incinerator and that has been working to promote better air quality and oppose other polluting developments, too, most recently an application for coalbed methane gasification.

[4] Mossley Environmental Action Group is a resident’s organisation which has been campaigning against long-standing exposure from contaminated waste wood dust by a woodchipping plant owned by Plevin & Sons Ltd.

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