'All planning applications have been granted correctly' despite falsification of air quality data

Following last week's announcement that serious errors were made in the Council's air quality monitoring procedures "as the result of deliberate and systematic manipulation of data", Cheshire East Council has released the reports saying "all planning applications have been granted correctly".

Cheshire East Council monitors nitrogen dioxide levels at approximately 100 sites throughout the borough.

However, an external investigation found that serious errors were made in the Council's air quality data for 2012, 2013 and 2014 which may have impacted on Air Quality Assessments undertaken as part of the process of considering planning applications, particularly in Nantwich, Congleton, Crewe, Holmes Chapel, Sandbach and Macclesfield.

Cheshire East Council commissioned Bureau Veritas to undertake a review of those planning applications which may have been affected by the use of false data which is now available for the public to view.

Bureau Veritas identified a list of 43 planning applications for which the publication of revised air quality data may have resulted in a change to the planning decisions made. Of this list, 12 applications were flagged as high risk (due to incorrect data being used within AQAs and/or due to questionable methodologies being implemented), thirteen as medium risk, and sixteen as low risk.

The report also identified 38 applications for which Air Quality Assessments (AQAs) were not submitted but potentially should have been.

Councillor Ainsley Arnold, Cheshire East Council cabinet member for housing and planning, said: "We are pleased to confirm that we are releasing the independent review today, completed by Bureau Veritas.

"The council is keen to continue to be open and transparent in our response to these findings and that is why we are supplying the report to the media along with a full report of our own into these findings.

"This review identifies relevant planning applications that were granted planning permission during the period when errors have been identified in the council's air quality monitoring data.

"A separate report provides an analysis of the impact on those planning applications which may have been affected by these errors.

"Following this thorough analysis, we can confirm that all planning applications have been granted correctly and that no additional mitigation measures would have been required had the correct data been used at the time.

"The report does highlight, that in the case of one application, a revised air quality assessment would have been required as a result of the corrected data. For completeness, the council will commission a revised assessment and will report the results of this when it is available."

The Bureau Veritas report concludes "From the completion of the planning review, no clear relationship between the high risk planning permissions and the previously identified erroneous diffusion tube data was found. However, it is concluded that predicted pollutant concentrations and final conclusions of AQAs have likely been affected by the identified erroneous data. In a worst case scenario this may have led to a lower emphasis being placed upon the conclusions of an AQA within the overall application determination, and potentially a planning application therefore being approved when it may not have been had correct monitoring data been used for the air quality assessment purposes."

As reported on wilmslow.co.uk last week, Cheshire Police is investigating whether any crimes have been committed in relation to the Council's false air pollution figures.

A spokesperson for Cheshire Police said "We can confirm that the matter has been brought to our attention and officers will review it to establish if any criminal offences may have occurred."

Cheshire East Council


Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Mark Goldsmith
Wednesday 9th August 2017 at 5:31 pm
Does anyone believe anything this rotten council says anymore?

The key questions remain:

a) If the air pollution figures didn't affect planning decisions, then why doctor them? Why did they 'manipulate' the data if it didn't matter?

b) If air pollution data is irrelevant to the decisions, then why is it needed?

c) Why did the council official 'manipulate' the data? What benefit did they from their actions?

Frankly, this smells like another of many, many dodgy Cheshire East decisions.
Nick Jones
Wednesday 9th August 2017 at 5:48 pm
Hardly an independent appointment when commissioned by the very people responsible for the deliberate and systematic failures in the first place....Ainsleys stance on Local plan being well documented on this site. How surprising therefore of such a swift decision could be reached on a selected number of apps. If CEC want to be transparent release the full Lyme Green report and dont try and further hoodwink the electorate.
Julian Barlow
Wednesday 9th August 2017 at 5:52 pm
"The council is keen to continue to be open and transparent" Hahhahahha! Who's writing these statements for our councillors, The Chuckle Brothers?

CEC is as open as our ever diminishing countryside and as transparent as the polluted air above it.

Planning applications haven't been granted correctly or appropriately, they've been granted in accordance with a set of rules that defy any sort of logic and against overwhelming public objection. As is always the case, the councillors have no loyalty to the people who provide their income.
Chris Wigley
Wednesday 9th August 2017 at 7:34 pm
After Michael Jones stopped being leader of CE we use to see comments by the new leader Rachel Bailey, I haven't seen defending CE actions recently, has she given it up as a lost cause.
Julie Lowe
Wednesday 9th August 2017 at 7:51 pm
How much MORE of our money has this council wasted on 'irrelevant ' air pollution data?
Alan Leach
Wednesday 9th August 2017 at 7:59 pm
Usual CEC smokescreen - The Bureau Veritas Report does conclude by stating some permissions would not have been granted, if the correct data had been available at the time.
The separate report where CEC reckons these erroneous permissions have not had any detrimental effect appears not
to be available on the CEC web portal ....so much for transparency.
This is just the "tip of the lceberg" the Government needs to step in soon, as CEC has lost any trust it ever had.
Do we know how much the Bureau Veritas report cost to draft and publish ???
We the Council tax payers are funding this and have a right to know.
Ian Cook
Wednesday 9th August 2017 at 8:52 pm
Mark Goldsmith hits the nail on the head- why falsify the figutres of it didn't matter anyway????

I don't believe CEC could gather 70+ applications and documentation together in a week- planning would need at leas a month for that!!!!!!

There is no mention of the airport link roads in the report nor the airport city developments that I believe CEC are involved with? This all smells like another Jones steamroller decision to get things done quickly and without an argument from the public. Anyone inow that was there and involved at the time should be fired with no pension provision!
Terry Roeves
Wednesday 9th August 2017 at 8:54 pm
Does CEC qualify for more money from national government or from Brussels, if it meets air quality targets?
Terry Roeves
Wednesday 9th August 2017 at 9:18 pm
Imagine the cost to CEC if builders had to resubmit plans. Cost and loss of profit - ouch!
Makes economic sense for CEC to say all is fine, however.....
Even though pollution is a killer, seems that we don't matter very much in these circumstances.
Will anyone ever be in a position to check what's going on? Police? How long until we hear about Physiogate etc? Been an age, it really has.
Good idea if WTC install their own air quality monitors and let us know.
They aren't at all expensive.
Pete Taylor
Thursday 10th August 2017 at 7:53 am
Interestingly the Local Government Ombudsman has rated CEC Planiing Department as the second-worst in the country.
No doubt one of our "representatives " will be along shortly to explain. Or not.
Thursday 10th August 2017 at 9:27 am
I read the report and was shocked. The use of the word "deliberate" and then for subsequent years "systematic" for the same planning applications, - no doubt as they went from outline planning permission to full planning permission. What is clear is that it must have taken a good year for the external consultants to compile that report.The Council knew something was wrong at the beginning. The police should have been asked to work alongside the external consultants from the outset.
Nick Jones
Thursday 10th August 2017 at 2:28 pm
2nd worst in the country !! Ive just read some of their comments...... Hoodwinking the public as they go along from Lyme Green to this and more .... undoubtedly this abysmal performance intended to be swept under the carpet is out, and now being worn as a badge of honour by the CEC cllrs imposing their plan.... Time to get rid... At the very least a public or criminal enquiry holding those responsible accountable.
Manuel Golding
Friday 11th August 2017 at 1:41 pm
Bureau Veritas' Conclusion clearly states -
"... and potentially a planning application therefore being approved when it may not have been had correct monitoring data been used for the air quality assessment purposes."
The report also states a number of tubes had had the data "deliberately changed" and other as showing "incorrect stated concentration" and more.

These tell a disgraceful tale. No amount of wriggling, squirming, spinning, mealy-mouthed cover ups can get away from this conclusion - planning approval may not have been granted if councillors were fully aware of the correct & true data and on the health impact on the new homes' dwellers.

It is scandalous that Cllr Arnold is attempting to put yet another CE speciality propaganda spin on yet more further damning actions by the Council, whilst he & his acquiescing Cabinet colleagues proceed in protecting the guilty officers - and this goes to the top of the "officer class". Forget gardening, just open the door and boot out all those involved & those who knew after the event, the cover-up scratch-my-back clique.

Too many scandals plaguing this council all emanating at the top due to rank poor councillor leadership. Councillors have for too long let the officers rule supreme in their own fiefdom. Officers have ruled the roost over the Local Plan, feeding councillors with dumb arguments for concreting over the Green Belt instead of redeveloping the numerous eyesore brown field sites as a first call. It is officers who gave consistently ignored local concerns, who have not tackled the creaking infrastructure as a first call prior to any development work - our roads are at breaking point, our schools are not providing for our children, our GPs are clogged full and we have little in the way of public transport.

Every organisation gets its culture from the very top and this is clearly what we see via the arrogant set of senior officers. At the present time the council leadership & its officers are not fit for purpose - to quote Oliver Cromwell "For G'ds sake, go".

Councillors should clear out their officer class, bring in new brooms, set work parameters anew and stop paying over the top salaries to what has been proven to be inadequate people.
Pete Taylor
Friday 11th August 2017 at 4:30 pm
I think all the MPs in Cheshire East should demand an immediate moratorium on CEC Green Belt house-building, until this Police investigation is concluded.

How many fat-cats at CEC are still suspended on full pay? That's gone very quiet.

How is the Michael Jones Police investigation going? That's gone very quiet.
Christopher Baker
Friday 11th August 2017 at 4:55 pm
Apparently, CEC even have a protocol in place to cover what happens when they (it is suggested, deliberately) breach a protocol.

This procedure is, of course, recursive so it could result in a an unlimited number of protocols each one trying to cover a breach in the ones preceding it - Alice in Wonderland rewritten.
Terry Roeves
Friday 11th August 2017 at 5:35 pm
Private Eye today has a clear summary of this fiddle.
Manuel Golding
Friday 11th August 2017 at 7:33 pm
Private Eye's Rotten Boroughs headlines "CHESHIRE CHEATS" (that's our council, unfortunately). The first sentence goes - "CEC, a Tory council notorious for telling lies and fiddling figures has been caught at it again", and it goes onto describe the falsification of the air pollution tube monitors.
How much longer do we, the council tax payers of this rotten borough, have to endure this leadership & its hatchet men of questionable public morals all disguised as "council officers"?
There is something seriously very wrong with & at CEC. Nasty questions of a extremely serious nature are being voiced publicly.
Nick Jones
Friday 11th August 2017 at 8:50 pm
@ Manuel; Apologies here .. but with regard to your last ‘There is something seriously very wrong with & at CEC’ could you be a bit more specific ?... Are you referring to ; t
The notoriety of ‘Cash Hamilton’ and ‘George Our Star with 6 Jobs Osborne’ both receiving sycophantic Tat-tory support.. or perhaps... Lyme Green, doctored report +Cllrs conduct /Corefit & Council Leader Michael Jones conduct referred to Law Enforcement / Auditors reportedly refusing to sign off the CEC accounts calling for an external enquiry followed by Chief Exec Michel Suarez + Bill Norman suspension / £1.3M Expenses / £3.7M spend on flawed local plan/ Cosocious (£3M +?) / Non-compliance to Govt planning policy / Ignoring the ‘exceptional circumstance’ criteria re green belt / Ignoring Brownfield development / Local Plan engagement demonstrably dismissed / Adlington “Never build on these fields” Road /Seeking electorates consultation after approving CEC’ Cllrs very own ( & not the electorates) Local Plan / Ignoring PM recently reaffirming Conservative commitment to protect green belt / Appointing disbarred directors / Documented actions not to represent resident’s wishes voting on several occasions to decimate - eradicate green belt protection, (again demonstrated at Royal London) / Public disengagement in favour of party colours / Failing to Merge East and West / Created ‘Executive Directors’ role (following on from Messrs’ Wenzel, Riley& Suarez) / Severance payments / Excessive salary to those left covering the suspended posts / PCC increases precept then appoints family friend as Deputy then funds a number of further highly paid officials / CEC re-organising into directorates at more cost to become self-funding ? / 4% Tax rise -declared as a saving ! / Individual and collective shortcomings and failures constantly swept to one side with a total absence of meaningful explanation / Deliberate and systematic failures re Pollution data / Rachel Bailey “disappointed yet again at the negative portrayal of CEC for no good cause”

I’m just a bit concerned which bit you were referring to thats all !!
Manuel Golding
Saturday 12th August 2017 at 1:57 pm
@ Nick - Sorry if my last comments have led you into resurfacing from the incestuous pit that CEC inhabits.

I was ONLY referring to our rotten borough, its leaders, past & present, and its poor quality dept. head officers and all the questionable shenanigans they all have been involved with.
My beef is with our own council not with our previous M.Ps, but Esther McVey does appear to be listening and attempting to act upon many concerns. This is a rather new concept for Tatton where we have become inured to being cast aside.

We have enough problems to contend with emiminating from the cesspit that is in Sandbach. Your list of the "Cheshire Cheats" history is surely enough for we mere mortals to contend with?

Are you sure you haven't missed any other guilty escapade from your rather too long menu of this rotten borough's misdeeds and mismanagement costly fiascoes? To anser your question as to which bit I was referring to - answer: All of the above!

Every day in every way Cheshire East's ruling clique makes it so necessary that we kick em out in 2019 and elect independent councillors, here in Wilmslow with more Residents of Wilmslow representatives, who will put their voters first.
Vic Barlow
Wednesday 23rd August 2017 at 10:31 pm
The cost of this hastily presented external report is £28,000.
Guess who's paying?
Thursday 24th August 2017 at 9:58 am
Vic - it is what we have come to expect. Cheshire East being profligate with our money. What with that and the allegations over the new ANSA site - namely when is "a loan" really a "gift" of £2.4 million, and you realise the extent of incompetence.
Pete Taylor
Thursday 24th August 2017 at 12:06 pm
CEC have also made it into today's issue of Private Eye, on the same subject! Two consecutive issues- that is believed to be a record! Well done CEC, you are making our area a laughing-stock.