Merton Council yet to plant pollutant sapping trees for schoolchildren

Merton Council have yet to plant 107 pollutant sapping trees that are needed to mitigate air toxicity in an area surrounding a Wimbledon school, over two years after the issue was first raised.

In 2018, there were objectors to the planning application for Harris Academy in High Path, Wimbledon, due to concerns over air pollution.

At the meeting, committee members asked council officers to pursue the matter of air toxicity in the form of pollutant sapping trees.

According to conservative councillor David Dean, 58, plans to plant the trees should have gone ahead when the school opened its new building in November.

In March, Dean made a Facebook post searching for the trees the council were mandated to plant.

Merton Councillor
CONCERNED: Councillor David Dean

He said: “After two years of saying nothing at all, in the last six months the council have said they’ll do something, but still haven’t done anything.

“As a councillor, I’m hugely disappointed with the fact that the council should have planted the trees within a couple of months, because they take time to grow.

“They still have not guaranteed they’re going to be planted next winter.

“I’m keen in making sure wherever there are lots of children there are lots of trees, because it’s going to make the biggest difference to them.”

“Trees don’t cost much, there’s lots of green space in the area which is public land and frankly I could’ve done it myself within a week.

“I said to them, give me the permission and I’ll put in 107 trees and I’ll pay for it all because I’ll get it from charities, I’ll get volunteers, we’ll do it ourselves.”

POLLUTANT SAPPING TREES: David Dean says he’s “personally planted 833 trees and hedgerow bushes this year.” Photographer: Alex Indigo. 26 04 2008. Flickr.

During the 2018 meeting, objectors claimed air quality at the site would worsen, whilst the applicant’s agent said the air quality had been monitored and was acceptable.

The head teacher of Harris Academy also agreed that the site was acceptable.

In a letter to the applicant and council, Caroline Russell of the Green Party said: “I believe the application is contrary to the Mayor’s planning policies.

“The Mayor’s Draft London Plan Policy S1 states that London’s air quality should be significantly improved, and exposure to poor air quality, especially for vulnerable people, should be reduced.”

The planning application notes that 49 letters were received objecting on grounds that included air quality.

Harris Academy and the council have yet to make a comment.

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