'All planning applications have been granted correctly' despite falsification of air quality data

Following last week's announcement that serious errors were made in the Council's air quality monitoring procedures "as the result of deliberate and systematic manipulation of data", Cheshire East Council has released the reports saying "all planning applications have been granted correctly".

Cheshire East Council monitors nitrogen dioxide levels at approximately 100 sites throughout the borough.

However, an external investigation found that serious errors were made in the Council's air quality data for 2012, 2013 and 2014 which may have impacted on Air Quality Assessments undertaken as part of the process of considering planning applications, particularly in Nantwich, Congleton, Crewe, Holmes Chapel, Sandbach and Macclesfield.

Cheshire East Council commissioned Bureau Veritas to undertake a review of those planning applications which may have been affected by the use of false data which is now available for the public to view.

Bureau Veritas identified a list of 43 planning applications for which the publication of revised air quality data may have resulted in a change to the planning decisions made. Of this list, 12 applications were flagged as high risk (due to incorrect data being used within AQAs and/or due to questionable methodologies being implemented), thirteen as medium risk, and sixteen as low risk.

The report also identified 38 applications for which Air Quality Assessments (AQAs) were not submitted but potentially should have been.

Councillor Ainsley Arnold, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for housing and planning, said: "We are pleased to confirm that we are releasing the independent review today, completed by Bureau Veritas.

"The council is keen to continue to be open and transparent in our response to these findings and that is why we are supplying the report to the media along with a full report of our own into these findings.

"This review identifies relevant planning applications that were granted planning permission during the period when errors have been identified in the council's air quality monitoring data.

"A separate report provides an analysis of the impact on those planning applications which may have been affected by these errors.

"Following this thorough analysis, we can confirm that all planning applications have been granted correctly and that no additional mitigation measures would have been required had the correct data been used at the time.

"The report does highlight, that in the case of one application, a revised air quality assessment would have been required as a result of the corrected data. For completeness, the council will commission a revised assessment and will report the results of this when it is available."

The Bureau Veritas report concludes "From the completion of the planning review, no clear relationship between the high risk planning permissions and the previously identified erroneous diffusion tube data was found. However, it is concluded that predicted pollutant concentrations and final conclusions of AQAs have likely been affected by the identified erroneous data. In a worst case scenario this may have led to a lower emphasis being placed upon the conclusions of an AQA within the overall application determination, and potentially a planning application therefore being approved when it may not have been had correct monitoring data been used for the air quality assessment purposes."

As reported on wilmslow.co.uk last week, Cheshire Police is investigating whether any crimes have been committed in relation to the Council's false air pollution figures.

A spokesperson for Cheshire Police said "We can confirm that the matter has been brought to our attention and officers will review it to establish if any criminal offences may have occurred."

Tags:
Cheshire East Council
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Comments

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Bob Bracegirdle
Tuesday 15th August 2017 at 4:07 pm
Sounds like they're trying to weasel out of things to me.