Ealing Council Accused of Not Listening to BAME Residents


Campaigners say 'we can’t breathe' due to pollution from Southall development

Ealing Council Accused of Not Listening to BAME Residents
CASH campaigners say 'Stop poisoning Southall'.

Campaigners for Clean Air for Southall and Hayes (CASH) have accused Ealing Council of failing to listen to the borough’s ethnic minority population while it expresses solidarity for Black Lives Matter.

In the wake of global protests following the death of black American George Floyd, Ealing Council showed support for the movement, and has launched a review of its public spaces to ensure landmarks and monuments represent the diverse population it serves.

But in an open letter to council leader Julian Bell, CASH has said these anti-racist initiatives will not help the black, Asian and minority ethnic communities in Southall who are experiencing “grave environmental injustice.”

The campaign group was set up to stop the controversial redevelopment of the Southall Waterside site, where nearby residents claim they have suffered from breathing difficulties, chest pains and other health conditions since work began on the former gas works.

The letter, from June 16, read: “Ealing has not listened to the message from one of the most ethnically diverse and deprived parts of the borough that ‘we can’t breathe’.

“As the Covid-19 crisis makes clear, the health of the BAME community is disproportionately affected by air pollution and this form of systemic racism is blighting our lives.

“For two years we have reported the odour nuisance and health impact of the gasworks site through the correct channels but there has been no effective action to stop these.”

They added: “Ealing’s anti-racism initiatives won’t prevent us from choking on airborne carcinogenic chemicals from the Southall Waterside site. Expressing solidarity with BLM protests won’t halt the mounting cases of pneumonia and cancer in our community. Reviewing statues won’t reverse rising asthma among BAME children in our primary schools.”

The campaigners said the council’s responses to complaints so far have not addressed the “life-changing impact of air pollution”, on the community which is among the most deprived in the borough.

And the letter pressed the council on why it has not taken steps to assess the health impact on people living near the site, after air quality scientist Professor Roy Harrison told the BBC in January that some of the chemical levels “do present a threat to health”.

But according to Public Health England in a risk assessment, the body said there is “unlikely to be a direct toxicological risk to the health of the nearby population from the levels of VOCs [volatile organic compounds] detected”.

Following CASH’s call in the letter for a public meeting to quiz the council over the site, Cllr Bell has agreed to an online meeting on 16 July. It is understood Southall MP Virendra Sharma and Greater London Assembly member Onkar Sahota will also be attending.

An Ealing Council spokesperson said, “Councillor Bell is attending a virtual meeting organised by CASH on July 16 at which he will address questions raised in the letter and at the meeting.

“Following concerns raised by local residents, Ealing Council requested that Public Health England review the monitoring data and carry out a risk assessment of the monitoring data in relation to the Southall Waterside site.

“They continue to update this assessment and a fourth update is due shortly, having been delayed from earlier this year due to the Covid crisis.”

The Berkeley Group, which manages the Southall Waterside site, declined to comment.

Anahita Hossein-Pour - Local Democracy Reporter

June 24, 2020