‘Stop trying to pass the buck to each other’: Air pollution causes Southall politician to speak out

By Ronan Barnard
January 29 2020, 13.25

Ealing’s London Assembly Member called for government intervention over a Southall gasworks redevelopment which is allegedly causing toxic air pollution.

Dr Onkar Sahota said Ealing Council and the Environment Agency should investigate the redevelopment of a former Southall gasworks for causing dangerous air pollution.

Dr Sahota said: “I will pursue this case and get them all in the same room to meet the residents.

“Stop trying to pass the buck to each other.”

The site’s former use as a chemical plant and gasworks meant the soil had been contaminated with carcinogens like naphthalene, benzene, organic hydrocarbons, and cyanide.

Developers decontaminated the soil on the site because transporting the soil to another location was deemed too costly and disruptive for Southall residents.

YOUNG LUNGS: Hambrough Primary School is less than a mile from the site

There have been campaigns against the Southall gasworks redevelopment since soil decontamination began in May 2017.

Soil decontamination on the site largely stopped in March 2019.

Ealing council blocked planning permission for the site in 2010 and the decision was later overturned by then London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Air pollution monitoring was a condition of the planning permission, but is currently done by the site developers Berkeley Group, rather than a government body.

Dr Sahota said Berkeley Group should be charged for independent air monitoring by Ealing Council or the Environment Agency.

Dr Sahota added: “The results must go directly to the local authority since they are the independent arbitrators, rather than relying upon the developer monitoring and saying, ‘Look, I’ll be an honest broker’.”

Dr Sahota said he is pushing for independent air monitoring to be a condition for any future sites like Southall gasworks.

The redevelopment, called Southall Waterside, would include 3,750 flats, a primary school, commercial buildings, and more than 40 acres of parkland.

Fighting back

Southall residents started the protest group Clean Air for Southall and Hayes (CASH) to protest the redevelopment.

CASH spokesperson Angela Fonso said she smelled a petrol-like odour from the site in June 2017, one month after soil decontamination began.

She has since left her job at a local school because of headaches, coughing and other health issues.

Mrs Fonso said: “We feel abandoned by Ealing Council and [Ealing MP] Virendra Sharma.

“Even councilors from other parts of Ealing said they smelt it and complained.”

Mrs Fonso pointed out Southall is predominately Asian and Black.

She said: “In the community, English is often spoken as a second language, and people don’t want to speak out.

“It is down to environmental injustice, a poor community is being polluted because we do not have power and privilege.

“The government are waiting for people to start dying in huge numbers, rather than one or two at a time.”

Mrs Fonso no longer uses her garden due to the smell, and worries the pollution would damage the health of her two daughters.

CASH raised more than £6,000 in July 2019 to pursue a public nuisance claim against Berkeley Group.

A Southall resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said they experienced pains in their chest after excavation began, and were diagnosed with cancer.

Southall Waterside is in a largely suburban area, and is close to four schools, a football ground, and many places of worship.

Public Health England published three reports on the Waterside development finding a direct toxicological risk to be unlikely.

A fourth report on the Waterside development will be published on Ealing Council’s website when it is completed.

Berkeley Group were contacted by SWLondoner, but have not responded.

An Ealing Council spokesperson said: “We take residents’ concerns very seriously.

“We will continue to monitor the site and want to hear from anyone experiencing problems”

Residents who are worried about this issue can contact Ealing Council on 020 8825 8111 and those concerned about the health risks of local air pollution should speak to their GP, or call the NHS on 111.

Related Articles