Several years ago, we first discovered that the Rotten Borough planned to destroy Lancaster Green and replace it with the Kensington Aldridge Academy. We realised this would also mean the destruction of the much used five-a-side football pitches on the site and the displacement of the users of that facility to the nearby Westway Sports Centre. We immediately began to question the suitability of that Centre as a sporting venue for local children, and its safety in terms of air quality, specifically air pollution from the overhead Westway flyover and its’ various access ramps.
Despite our repeated attempts to engage constructively on that issue with RBKC, and our local Labour councillors, we made no progress whatsoever, and were stonewalled at every turn. Following the publication, at last, of the results of the “Mapping for Change” Citizen Science Project sponsored by University College London, our air pollution concerns have been completely vindicated.
According to the results of the study the nitrogen dioxide average for July alone at the Westway Sports Centre was 52.46µg/m3, whereas the annual legal limit for nitrogen dioxide levels is 40µg/m3. This clearly shows that the total NO2 pollution measured at this site in a single month exceeded the safe limit allowed for a full year under European law. This is in itself entirely unacceptable, and it also follows that the annual NO2 pollution levels are sure to far exceed the maximum annual safe limit allowed under European law. We have therefore compiled the following questions which demand to be answered by those in power at Hornton Street:
QUESTION: Why would those in authority at RBKC, including the leadership of the Westway Development Trust, a creature agency of the Council, think it appropriate to build a largely outdoor sports complex, used by many of the children of North Kensington, under a complex motorway intersection where there were always likely to be air pollution issues?
QUESTION: Having decided to proceed with the development in question, why did neither the Westway Development Trust (ie the Westway Sports Centre) nor the Environmental Department of the Royal Borough consider it advisable, either at the planning stage or subsequently, to install air quality monitoring equipment on the site, despite sustained pressure to do so over recent years?
QUESTION: Why did RBKC repeatedly insist, even though they had no scientific basis on which to do so, that there was no air pollution problem at the Westway Sports Centre?
QUESTION: Specifically, why did RBKC falsely claim, when challenged on the lack of air quality monitoring at the Westway Centre, that “by a quirk of atmospheric pressure” the area directly underneath the Westway did not have air quality problems, “as the pollution drifts further afield”?
QUESTION: What, if anything, does RBKC now propose to do to remedy this appalling situation? Clearly the many outdoor facilities at the Westway Sports Centre are unfit for purpose and unsafe for use by the many local children, including school parties, who routinely use them. Will the Council urgently provide alternative facilities which are not so badly polluted that they pose a clear and serious risk to the health of anyone, especially children, who exercise and play sport at this venue for personal lifestyle reasons, or as part of their school curriculum?
WE SUSPECT THAT CLEAR AND HONEST ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS WILL NOT BE FORTHCOMING FROM THE COUNCIL, BUT IT IS OUR CONSIDERED OPINION THAT RBKC COUNCILLORS AND OFFICERS HAVE DELIBERATELY AND CYNICALLY BEHAVED IN A MANNER LIKELY TO DAMAGE THE HEALTH AND WELL BEING OF THE USERS OF THE WESTWAY SPORTS CENTRE, MANY OF WHOM ARE CHILDREN BUSSED IN FROM LOCAL SCHOOLS. WE CONSIDER THIS TO BE A VERY SERIOUS MATTER.
LASTLY: In a Freedom of Information request dated 6 July 2014 the Grenfell Action Group asked to see any correspondence, emails, minutes of meetings, etc held by the Council concerning RBKC Labour Councillors and the issue of air pollution around the Westway Sports Centre that may have taken place since 11th December 2012. The response from the FoI officer at RBKC stated that when the records were searched no information was found in relation to this request.
On more than one occasion recently when we have used Freedom of information legislation to check claims by councillors and council officers to have engaged in discussions or negotiations with third parties on various issues of local importance, we have discovered that there is no documentary record of any such meetings or discussions – no emails on record, no meeting notes or minutes etc. We do not believe that this is remotely credible. Institutions of government simply don’t operate on such bases. Records are always kept for future reference, and if the records don’t exist, then it strongly suggests that the meetings or discussions never took place.
Kensington Labour councillors claim to have lobbied the Council intensively on the Westway air pollution issue – and yet there is no record of meetings with council officers, formal or informal, no emails, no minutes, no meeting notes. We are left with no alternative but to assume that they too have been disingenuous about how much lobbying they have engaged in, and how much pressure they have brought to bear on the Council – precious little it seems.
WE BELIEVE,THEREFORE, THAT OUR LOCAL LABOUR COUNCILLORS ALSO HAVE SOME SERIOUS QUESTIONS TO ANSWER REGARDING THE APPALLING AIR POLLUTION LEVELS AT WESTWAY SPORTS CENTRE. NEEDLESS TO SAY WE DON’T REALLY EXPECT SUCH ANSWERS TO BE FORTCOMING FROM THE LABOUR GROUP, ANY MORE THAN FROM THE RULING TORIES.
THIS, UNFORTUNATELY, IS THE SHAM DEMOCRACY WHICH WE IN THE SO-CALLED ‘FREE WORLD’ HAVE INHERITED.