Councillors voted yes to the proposed CIP plans, including the controversial 25 storey tower block, in last night’s long and long-awaited Committee Vote. Councillors clearly suspended disbelief in an evening of magic tricks and cute child sideshows. We were asked to believe that a 25-storey tower block would not be visible: ‘glazing’ making it disappear into our constantly balmy blue skies in England; believe in visuals that appeared to be from the point of view of ants on the ground; believe that future residents of luxury million quid apartments will have no need for cars or taxis; nor for bays to allow for their inevitable Ocado or Deliveroo deliveries; that trees have a negligible impact on pollution; that breaking WHO limits on pollution is not cause for action, or even concern, that as its ‘in line with the averages in the ‘back streets of Camden’ (that’s ok then!); that raising the population density will have no impact; that Somers Town has too many parking spaces currently; that wholesale disregard for Somers Town Neighbourhood plans or indeed its own council policies are ‘slight deviations’, that total open space will increase with 5 new huge developments on it… With all the distraction afforded, no-one raised the blindingly obvious; which is quite why is so much development is needed to refurbish one school (which we all actually agree is needed).
At one stage the public gallery were told sternly not to applaud: ‘this is not a spectator show! But how could we not with magic tricks and child actors? Note to deputations: never compete with children or animals.
The show goes on: campaigners have made a call in to the Secretary of State.
The developer and council officers after long questioning on 21 June 2016 admitted that Somers Town is above the annual mean limit reading for nitrogen dioxide of 40 micrograms per cubic meter. At Brill Place, where the Crick is (staff will be moving into the building in summer 2016), where a 25-storey luxury tower block and further blocks are proposed on green space, there is, according to the council officer, an annual reading of 46-47. This means air quality readings in Somers Town is daily breaching national regulations for NO2.
How is it possible to propose blocks on open space, and say that NO2 levels will not increase further? Why would the council not be interested to protect the residents of Somers Town from poor, in fact illegal air quality? The school needs to be rebuilt, but why are those so much in favour of this scheme closing their eyes when confronted with the facts on poor air quality. Why are those in favour of the scheme not interested to work with the community to achieve a scheme that indeed tackles air quality issues. By saying yes to this scheme, they say yes to cutting down trees, to losing public open space. In fact they say yes to a scheme that will further decrease the air quality.
It is beyond beggar’s belief that London Borough of Camden, the applicant and judiciary of the scheme, the majority of the councillors on the committee, a school governor and the head teacher of Edith Neville School and other representatives of schools in Somers Town, ignore a very sad fact: poor air quality is bad for the young and old in Somers Town, it affects everyone.
It doesn’t help when there is misinformation, which would seem to be the case:
The pollution expert/consultant said that nitrogen dioxide was not alleviated by trees, when this was finally (and long awaited) enquired about from a Councillor after consideration at first only of the residents to be living in the new tower block with ventilation systems (as opposed to eg residents of the Coopers Lane estate next to the taxi rank).
However, “Studies have shown that in one urban park, tree cover removed 48 pounds of particulates, 9 pounds of nitrogen dioxide, 6 pounds of sulfur dioxide, 0.5 pounds of carbon monoxide and 100 pounds of carbon – daily. (urbanforestrynetwork.org).
In addition the trees are giving oxygen, which is also alleviating the affects of pollution on the body (in particular nitrogen dioxide I would have thought, and thereby diluting it as well?).
He admitted that trees helped with particulate matter but said this was not a problem generally in London, even though the development is next to the taxi rank and so it would be interesting to know about that too.
A councillor on the committee also asked about the median and mean figures (which had been given) and what would be the relevance of other figures for pollution? No response, at best, was given for this, as I remember, however: when pollution is high it correlates with heart attacks, and so there is a relation between high pollution rates and heart attacks and strokes statistically. This would be likely to be the same with asthma attacks as well, and so it is not just older adults but children who are affected as well.
THE EFFECTS OF URBAN TREES ON AIR QUALITY David J. Nowak USDA Forest Service, Syracuse, NY 2002 “In urban areas with 100% tree cover (i.e., contiguous forest stands), short-term improvements in air quality (one hour) from pollution removal by trees were as high as 15% for ozone, 14% for sulfur dioxide, 13% for particulate matter, 8% for nitrogen dioxide, and 0.05% for carbon monoxide”
The arguments can be about children, but they shouldn’t be roped into adult arguments/ “discussion”, because apart from anything else, they do not know the arguments against (about the whole scheme). It seems as if the school could be wrongly using its influence over the children, without understanding that.
The 80 thoughtful resident comments were written into the Planner has been ignored in the process, and objections it was said are seen to be a minority and not a majority view from the residents, even though a survey too against its expectation, found that protection of the parks is the main priority of residents. Instead, that parents were willing to sign a letter supporting the school rebuild, the school believes makes it a majority view amongst residents, that this whole scheme is wanted.