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Plans to convert former Peterborough pub into nursery rejected over air pollution fears

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Plans for a new nursery that would have found 70 much needed places in Peterborough has been refused on grounds that air pollution in the area would harm the children.

The nursery would have replaced the former Fenman pub, which sits on the corner of Whittlesey Road and Coneygree Road in Stanground, with parking for 32 vehicles.

But members of Peterborough City Council’s Planning & Environmental Protection Committee refused the application at their meeting (on Tuesday because of a combination of increased traffic movements and air pollution harm.

Speaking against the application, Cllr Chris Harper said: “I cannot think of a more inappropriate site to put a new children’s nursery than on this already busy junction at Whittlesey Road.

“The Fenman pub – which is now closed and derelict – is right opposite a petroleum filling station which has more than 400 vehicle movements in any given day.

“The junction of Whittlesey Road is already known for its traffic congestion and the applicant is suggesting that upwards of 200 more vehicle movements a day in and out of this site will not cause problems – well, I disagree.

“The air pollution in the area is already high as a result of the filling station, but to have constant vehicles coming in and out of an already busy junction will potentially cause irreparable harm to young lungs.”

RELATED: Plans to convert derelict Peterborough pub into nursery draw mixed response ahead of vote

The applicant, Alpha Kindergarten, has more than 20 years nursery experience from its other sites in Peterborough.

Director Dan Slipper said: “We approached the Highways Department about this site as soon as we had identified it as a potential for a new nursery to see what objections they might have.

“They looked into our plans and recommended we change the play area for the children from the front of the facility to the back, which we have done.

“Other than that they’ve had no cause for concern on either traffic movement or adverse air pollution grounds.

“Peterborough desperately needs more nursery places, and finding a site of this size in the city is near impossible.

“We did a survey of parents and more than 600 have said they would have no issues with their children going to our nursery.”

But committee members heard from local Chris Goodwin, who said: “Even after The Fenman pub closed the traffic at that junction is still horrendous.

“The air quality is very poor all day long from the constant vehicles driving past, turning and waiting at Whittlesey Road, and going into and out of the petrol station.

“It’s a junction that is an accident waiting to happen, and with even more cars using the nursery with very young children around, I find the whole concept very frightening.

“I cannot tell you enough of the stupidity of motorists who drive right past the site where this nursery is being planned.”

Cllr Christian Hogg wanted to know if Mr Slipper was aware of studies done that show air pollution in and around petroleum filling stations is particularly poor, and states that children’s facilities such as schools should not be sited near to them if possible.

Mr Slipper said he knew of no such studies, but referred instead to the environmental health officer’s report which showed no concerns for the site.

Cllr Nigel Simons was very concerned that no noise pollution survey had been undertaken either, but Mr Slipper was quick to point out that the environmental health officer’s report did not require one.

Acting chairman Cllr Graham Casey enquired of the highways officer if a yellow traffic control box had been considered as part of the plan across the junction where vehicles would enter and exit the site. He was told while it could be looked into, it was not a part of the current application.

Cllr Casey then asked if the traffic movements would add considerably to the air pollution in the area, but the highways officer stated they did not know, saying that movements would be constant throughout the day, unlike at a school where children are all dropped off and picked up at roughly the same time.

The highways officer added that while Cllr Richard Brown had raised concerns over the 400 plus vehicle movements in and out of the petroleum filling station, they were not a consideration as part of this application, and that highways had only taken into consideration the general traffic movements leading up to and onto the junction with Whittlesey Road.

In summary, Cllr Hogg said: “I would not feel comfortable putting my name to an application where we find out in 10 years’ time that children’s health has been put at risk both through environmental issues and increased traffic movements and at times of the day when stationary cars will be adding to the air pollution.

“I would also draw the applicant’s attention to those surveys that clearly show children’s facilities near or adjacent to petrol stations will only add to the air pollution they breathe in. “

Cllr Peter Hiller said: “Taking a risk with young lungs and young lives gives me very good reason to refuse this application.”

Cllr Amjad Iqbal added: “If the environmental issues are as bad as members have voiced, then this application should at least be deferred until we get a definitive report explaining fully to us the dangers of air pollution at this site.”

Cllr Hiller came back: “I don’t think it’s just the air pollution issues that we have a concern with here, there are traffic movements, congestion matters with parents driving their cars in and out and the times of usage of the site – these are all coupled to the environmental problems of air pollution.

“Even if we had a report from environmental health I think it would only highlight what we already know, and besides, even with a report, I would still have very serious concerns about this application.”

Following a vote, the application was refused.

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