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Greens say Meadowhall extension plans mean more air pollution

Sheffield Green Party are objecting to the Meadowhall Extension unless suitable conditions are stipulated that definitely ensure no adverse impacts on air pollution and public health. This is based on widely known health impacts on vulnerable people in the Tinsley area which will significantly worsen due to this and other developments in the east end of Sheffield. The Planning Committee considers the application on September 12th.

Eamonn Ward, who submitted this objection (and a 1300 signature petition calling for a new Sheffield City Council air pollution action plan in April), comments:

“We know how popular Meadowhall is and recognise the arguments for job creation but increased air pollution deaths linked to major developments in the east end are not an acceptable price to pay. Everyone involved knows that business models based on access via the M1 have massive health impacts and will add to the 500 premature deaths a year caused by air pollution in Sheffield.

Access will continue to be mainly by car as Meadowhall have already maximised the use of cleaner transport options for customers and staff. The application makes it clear that the Meadowhall extension will bring more traffic and worsen air pollution.

Tinsley is in Darnall council ward which has very high levels of asthma, respiratory and circulatory disorders and cancer linked to high levels of poverty. It has a much higher than average number of young children who are more vulnerable to air pollution, often leading to asthma and a lifelong reduction in lung capacity.

It is being suggested in the officers report that air pollution mitigation comes in the form of the council’s failed 2012 Air Quality Action Plan and government plans that have changed throughout 2017 as high court judges order them to go back to drawing board. Neither is a credible basis for definite action in what remains an uncertain, fluid situation on meeting EU air quality standards.

Sheffield can’t just make road changes to allow expansion in the east end knowing that it will worsen the current public health crisis and cause more premature deaths in and around Tinsley. Sheffield Council’s Public Health Strategy approved at Cabinet on March 15th 2017 states: “We will adopt a principle of health in all policies & systematically consider health and wellbeing outcomes, and inequalities across all of the decisions.” This application fails that test and should not be approved until it does.”

Notes

  1. The text of the Sheffield Green Party objection is shown below
  2. Darnall council ward health data is here http://www.sheffieldeastend.org.uk/DarnallWardHealthProfile2011.pdf
  3. The council’s action plan (signed off in 2012 with objectives to be achieved by 2015) is here: https://www.sheffield.gov.uk/content/dam/sheffield/docs/pollution-and-nuisance/air-pollution/air-quality-management/Air%20Quality%20Action%20Plan%202015.pdf
  4. The petition submitted in April is www.change.org/p/sheffield-city-council-sheffield-needs-a-new-air-pollution-action-plan

OBJECTION SUBMITTED:

Sheffield Green Party objection to 16/04169/FUL | Changes to the Meadowhall Leisure and Retail Scheme comprising of amendments to the uses and floorspace and incorporating an Environmental Statement Addendum considering the amended highway, air quality and socio economic impacts.

“The M1 has been widened to 4 lanes. Ikea opens this month. The Olympic Legacy Park is coming soon. A service station for M1 junction 33 has been proposed and the Smithy Wood service station at junction 35 is on hold awaiting that decision. Numerous developments are being proposed close to junction 34 prompting ”full and proper assessment” of congestion issues which pushed back consideration of this application.

Supporting documents appear to show an increase in car journeys by about 8%. 4 out of 5 people will continue to arrive by car and nearly two thirds of those journeys will be via the M1. The tram train to Rotherham will help a little bit from around 2019 when cleaner Northern and TransPennine Express trains are also due. Travel Plan targets shown here are optimistic to say the least including doubling the number of people cycling or walking. Few customers or staff live close enough to even consider walking or cycling as a viable option.

The location has always dictated a business model based on attracting customers by car, mainly using the M1. This will essentially continue – Meadowhall have already maximised the use of cleaner transport options for customers and staff. There is now only the opportunity for small incremental behaviour changes however good the Travel Plan is.

This application is part of a group of applications focused on the area between M1 Junctions 33 and 35, with junction 34 identified as a major stress point. This application, added to the impacts of approved applications and further applications in the pipeline, has serious implications for air pollution in this part of Sheffield (and in Rotherham close to the M1). The Highways Agency may solve the congestion issues but it’s clear that a significant increase in car and other vehicle journeys will have public health impacts. Facilitating road changes to allow this development to go ahead deliberately creates road conditions to allow more traffic and therefore worsen air pollution.

The State of Sheffield 2017 report states: “Air quality in Sheffield has not improved and remains a significant issue that impacts on citizens’ health and wellbeing.” The Sheffield City Air Quality Action Plan includes this among 7 main actions: “Mitigate the impact of the M1 motorway (particularly in the Tinsley Area)”.

We know 500 premature deaths a year in Sheffield can be attributed to poor air quality and that people living in Tinsley have maximum exposure. Tinsley is in the Darnall council ward which has very high levels of asthma, respiratory and circulatory disorders and cancer linked to high levels of poverty. It has a high number of under 5’s and under 20’s – young people are more vulnerable to air pollution often leading to asthma and a lifelong reduction in lung capacity. Schools are being moved away from the M1 because of these impacts but you can’t move the population away from where they live.

This development will significantly increase vehicle journeys. Meadowhall have already exhaustively investigated and implemented the clean transport options available for customers and staff. Statistics show that car travel to Meadowhall will still massively predominate with most journeys via the M1. A 60 mph speed limit on the M1 between junctions 32 and 35A will help if the recent consultation leads to implementation. But the overall picture remains unchanged – numerous major developments in the east end with significantly increased traffic and associated health impacts on vulnerable communities.

We are provided with statistics that clearly show this development has negative impacts on air quality across the whole of the surrounding areas. We are told this development will delay compliance with air quality standards by about 1 year. IKEA will also no doubt delay compliance by a period of years so this is just kicking the can down the road.

The basis for future air quality standards compliance is the 2012 Sheffield City Council Air Quality Plan. But there has been no significant action on “Mitigate the impact of the M1 motorway (particularly in the Tinsley Area)” and the overall plan has failed in it’s overall objective of reducing premature deaths due to air pollution.

The second basis for future air quality standards compliance is the latest version of government plans which simply cannot be relied on. The government continue to fight in the courts to avoid the production and implementation of credible air pollution actions.  Another court case could follow before Christmas accompanied by yet another government plan as Client Earth continue to fight this battle on behalf of our public health.

I ask committee members to consider these questions before making their decision:

– You are considering a revised application following representations by the Highways Agency to include measures to address congestion due to the increased volume of traffic at junction 34 of the M1 and in the roads close to it. Have similar robust revisions been made to this application to fully address the increased air pollution that this increased traffic will bring?

– The air pollution impacts are definite. It is being suggested to you that mitigation comes in the form of the council’s 2012 Air Quality Action Plan with objectives to be achieved by 2015 that have not been met with no updated plan in place. Plus government plans that have changed from month to month in 2017 as judges order them to go back to drawing board. Can you have any confidence in the mitigation assessment in this uncertain, fluid situation?

– This and the many other developments in the pipeline in the east end need to have a neutral impact on traffic movements and air pollution. Can suitable conditions be applied to enable this? Are revisions to the business model required to reduce traffic movements and enable increased use of public transport and other lower polluting or non polluting travel methods?

– Should the feasibility of a Clean Air Zone in the East End be investigated as a matter of urgency in addition to those being looked at in other pollution hot spots in and around the centre of Sheffield? Should citywide air pollution warnings be issued to allow people with health conditions to make informed decisions about going out on days when pollution is worst?

– At the IKEA decision meeting in 2014 the Council’s Director of Public health stated: “The exacerbation of poor air quality will undoubtedly cause more illness and very probably a small number of premature deaths. The adverse consequences are very unlikely to be outweighed by improvement in employment prospects and improvement in the economy.”

– Sheffield Council’s Public Health Strategy, approved at Cabinet on March 15th 2017, states: “We will adopt a principle of health in all policies & systematically consider health and wellbeing outcomes, and inequalities across all of the decisions.” How can this application proceed without significantly negative impacts on the health of vulnerable people in the areas impacted by the business undertaken on this site?

Sheffield Green Party objects to this application unless suitable conditions are stipulated that definitely ensure no adverse impacts on air pollution and public health.

Topics: air pollution, City Wide, Council, Eamonn Ward, Featured

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