Liverpool Greens challenge car park on air quality grounds

Liverpool Green Party, with the support of the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF), has taken the first step towards legal action against Liverpool City Council (LCC) 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 LCC failed to consider air quality and, therefore, failed to comply with national planning policy requirements in granting planning permission for its own development on the site last month. Liverpool Green Party also contest that tree protection has not be dealt with correctly.

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, only replacing 8 trees.

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 its 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. How could it be the case that a multi-storey car park would have zero effect on air pollution?”.

ELF enlisted the help of barrister Charles Streeten from FTB and a pre-application protocol letter, setting out the grounds for a challenge, was delivered to LCC on the 8th March 2017.

UPDATE

Despite Liverpool City Council’s response to the pre-action protocol letter failing to address concerns about air quality and the felling of 36 mature trees (within days of the planning decision), the Liverpool Green Party (LGP) is not able to proceed with a legal challenge.

Added to the uncertainty around the potential costs risk in view of recent changes to the costs rules, the Council’s response indicated that it would look carefully at a PCO application and seek confirmation of a claimant’s financial resources. As an unincorporated association, LGP would only be able to take legal action through someone acting on its behalf. In the circumstances, LGP was unable to find an individual willing to take on such a high level of risk and exposure. The chilling effect of these costs rules changes on environmental challenges by communities is clearly already evident.