Child protection referral lodged after tree felled

time:2023-06-03 02:14:01source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) author:news

A child protection referral related to traffic pollution has been lodged after a decision to fell an oak tree.

The 100-year-old tree in Rochford, Essex, was cut down to make way for a new road junction and 662 homes.

District councillor Julie Gooding said she took the action, believed to be the first in the UK, because children at nearby schools were "at risk of significant harm" from extra pollution.

Rochford District Council said it was installing more air quality monitors.

The council originally rejected the proposals for the Ashingdon Road development, but Bloor Homes was granted planning permission following a public inquiry in January 2022.

The tree was felled on 13 February following months of protests, including a 15-week demonstration at the tree.

Independent councillor Ms Gooding, who left the Conservative group last week, made the referral to Essex County Council, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

She said the extra pollution generated from the increased traffic for the development posed a "risk of significant harm" for the 500 pupils at nearby Holt Farm Infant and Junior schools.

In an email to members at the county and district councils, she said: "The process currently under way has increased the amount of extra pollution from the construction trucks flowing into the entrance of the development area which is outside the school gates.

"I have spoken to families [who] say they are worried and frightened and concerned, and it is my role then to escalate that."

The Climate Child Protection and Safeguarding Team (CCPAST), which describes itself as a group of professionals working in child protection which focuses on the risks and harms presented by the climate emergency, has written in support of the referral.

It said pupils were currently experiencing "high levels of air pollution" and the loss of the tree had "likely increased their exposure to this source of physical and developmental harm".

A spokesman said: "In circumstances like this, where trees, nature's air filter, are being removed in order to increase heavy goods vehicle traffic next to a school, this needs investigating under the Children Act.

"Rochford Council's action is the first child protection referral in the UK related to environmental impacts on children and it won't be the last."

An Essex County Council spokesman said all referrals to the authority "receive proper consideration".

Rochford District Council said it had 13 monitors across the district, which, since 2017, "had not recorded any exceedances of the government targets".

"As part of the ongoing monitoring programme the council is in the process of adding additional monitors near all of the schools on the district - this includes the Holt Farm schools," a statement said.

Bloor Homes said it would not be commenting on the matter.

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