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Council reviews planning decisions owing to wrong air quality data

Words: Laura Edgar
Nantwich / iStock-585794352

Errors made in monitoring air quality by Cheshire East Council have affected planning applications across the area, so the council is now reviewing whether mitigation measures are required.

Concerns about monitoring of air quality were first raised at a council cabinet meeting on 12 July 2016.

A report submitted to the meeting identified data inaccuracies on air quality that had affected the 2015 and 2014 submissions to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The council’s internal audit team undertook a review and then commissioned an external investigation.

The investigation’s findings suggest that serious errors have been made in the council’s air quality data for 2012, 2013 and 2014. “It is clear that these errors are the result of deliberate and systematic manipulation of data from a number of diffusion tubes.”

Additionally, phase two of the investigation included a review of planning applications where publications of revised air quality data may have affected planning decisions. The findings indicate that applications in Nantwich, Congleton, Crewe, Holmes Chapel and Sandbach were affected.

Sean Hannaby, director of planning and sustainable development at the council, said: “The planning service is currently analysing the relevant planning applications to assess whether any additional mitigation measures are required.”

He also said that in July 2016 the then director of public health assured the council that no immediate health protection measures were needed as a result of the errors. “I have been assured this advice still stands.”

The council’s air quality team has reviewed its internal processes and procedures and a number of quality control measures are in place, the council said.

“Our council website now contains the correct data and supporting information and our annual status report for both 2016 and 2017 containing the accurate data will be submitted to Defra within the next few weeks,” added Hannaby.

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