9 March 2017
Liverpool Green Party, with the support of the Environmental Law Foundation, has begun legal action against Liverpool City Council in respect of the decision to grant planning permission for a 333 space multi storey-car park on Victoria Street in Liverpool City Centre. The Greens point out that the City Council failed to consider air quality and, therefore, failed to comply with national planning policy requirements in granting planning permission for it's own development on the site last month. Liverpool Green Party also contest that tree protection has not be dealt with correctly. A pre-application protocol letter has been delivered to the City Solicitor this morning. In this, Charles Streeten a barrister from Francis Taylor Building, sets out the legal grounds for the challenge.
The Greens vigorously opposed the planning application to fell 36 mature trees to build the multi-storey car park in what is an already a congested and polluted city centre location.
Cllr Tom Crone, Leader of Liverpool's Green Group said, 'We lodged a detailed set of written objections and spoke to members at planning committee about our belief that air pollution and tree loss were not being dealt with properly. We argued that the car park would result in a significant increase in air pollution and have a negative impact upon the health of local residents and city workers. The city centre is designated as an Air Quality Management Area because the City Council knows that air pollution levels are too high here. The Council published an Air Quality Action Plan for the area in 2008, so we know this problem has existed for some time. We strongly believe that an Air Quality Assessment was necessary for this large car park, so the public would have clear information about it's potential impact upon local air quality'.
Air quality assessments include an assessment of current air quality and analyse the impact of any additional pollution created by a development. They provide the facts on which a sound decision can be made. The biggest problem pollutants in the area are likely to be nitrogen dioxide and the specs of black dust in car exhaust known as particulates.
Cllr Crone said, 'Before the application went to planning committee, the Green Party asked the Planning Service to step back from the decision to recommend the application for approval without an air quality assessment and highlighted the fact that air quality was not even mentioned in the report to planning committee. This request was dismissed, and on the day of committee, members were advised that the development would have no effect on air quality and there was no need for an assessment.
'We thought this advice to committee was wrong. How could it be the case that a multi-storey car park would have zero effect on air pollution? It seemed irrational' added Cllr Crone.
In a landmark report last year, 'Every Breath We Take', the Royal Collage of Physicians, published the shocking statistic that 40,000 premature deaths a year result from air pollution. Air pollution causes respiratory illnesses like asthma; cardiac problems; it is believed to limit brain development in children and evidence is mounting on the link with dementia in older members of the community.
Cllr Crone said, 'Unfortunately, Liverpool City Council was so determined to convince us that the car park was a good thing, it ignored this report, legal planning requirements and even argued that it would reduce air pollution. It was claimed that the car park would be 'eco-friendly'. In the face of this, Liverpool Green Party felt it was our duty to challenge the Council. Air pollution has been described by MP's as a 'public health emergency'; its just not acceptable to ignore the matter when making planning decisions'.
Tom Crone says, 'We sought the help of the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), a charity helps people use the law to protect and improve their local environment and quality of life. ELF has been absolutely fantastic and have enabled us to put together the information needed to approach their network of environment lawyers. Our request for help was taken quickly up by Charles Streeten, from Francis Taylor Building. It appears that the Council was wrong to conclude that an air quality assessment was not required. He agrees that without an air quality assessment, the true significance of the air quality impact can not be known. It is important that an assessment is carried out to ensure compliance with national air quality standards (Directive 2008/50/EC)'.
'When we received the advice that there is grounds for a Judicial Review, we felt compelled to make a formal legal challenge because the air quality we breath is so important. This significant failure should not be allowed to pass unchallenged.'
'As well as air quality, we are challenging the loss of 36 mature trees without definite arrangements for their replacement. The wording of the planning permission only requires the Council to plant 8 new trees, not the 90 that has been stated' added Cllr Crone.