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A tale of two test tubes and seven sniffs

February 4, 2019 11:34 AM
By Peter Dobbs

Power stationThe National Planning Practice Guidance (2014) means that when a developer applies for planning permission, they have to satisfy the planners that their proposed development will not significantly affect air quality both in the vicinity of the development or further afield, eg by increased traffic congestion.They also need to show that they are not going to expose the new residents of their estate to existing sources of air pollution.To do this they submit impressive looking documents full of computer generated figures and graphics which they believe show that their proposals will cause no harm.

However if you examine the actual data used then the documents become much less convincing. A recent application was shown to rely on just two pieces of evidence for levels of nitrogen dioxide (associated with several health issues) and those measurements were being made in irrelevant locations. Another 'piece of evidence' assessed the existing air pollution (smell) problem by sniffing on one November day in 7 different locations. None of those locations was as near to the obvious source of the smell as the nearest proposed house. The testing was not repeated in the hotter summer months (when complaints had peaked) or on a day when the prevailing wind placed the proposed homes downwind of the source of smell. Despite comments from the Environment Agency on the significant limitations of the report, the application was passed.