Campaigners who challenged a council’s decision to go ahead with a large-scale housing development featuring a school in one of Goodmayes’ most polluted areas lost their case after a year-long dispute.
After the High Court dismissed the case as “not properly arguable”, Andy Walker lead campaigner of the Stop the Tesco Toxic Towers group asked for permission to appeal and challenge the lawfulness of Redbridge Council’s decision to grant planning permission to Weston Homes for the construction of 14 residential towers.
Lorimer Village, a £500m project described as having “sustainability at the forefront”, will replace the local Tesco supermarket and petrol station at 822 High Road in Goodmayes with 1,280 new homes – 35% of which will be affordable accommodations, commercial units and a community hub.
As part of the development, a new three-form primary school will be built next to the southern section of the High Road, a busy area known to residents for its congestion problems and the high number of vehicles passing through every day.
Mr Walker, 61, said: “If it was a football match, I’d say we were robbed.
“Our main argument was the school location – it should be inside the development away from the pollution.
“Because it is by a polluted road and there is a combination of Crossrail noise and electromagnetic fields, it is not the right place to build a school.
“But both courts completely ignored it saying that the appropriate time for litigation will be when the school layout is published.
“While it is disappointing that the Court of Appeal refused our application, this is not the end of our campaign.”
In August 2023 Lord Justice Stuart-Smith dismissed Mr Walker’s appeal application ruling that, due to the “unarguable” nature of his arguments, an appeal would not have any real prospect of success.
Concerns about the potential risk posed by poor air quality on pupils’ health due to the location of the school are at the heart of the campaign against what locals dubbed “Tesco Toxic Towers”.
According to the group, when Redbridge Council approved Weston Homes’ planning application it failed to consider a more adequate location and ignored whether the project included the installation of air filters for the four-storey school as it did for the flats up to the seventh floor.
The Appeal judge rejected these arguments, ruling that he was satisfied the council’s decision did not rest “on insufficient consideration of the policy concerning the school premises and that the matter will be dealt with by the local authority in the future.”
Nayema Khan, 38, a primary school teacher joined the Stop Tesco Toxic Towers campaign two years ago with her husband, Ali, a software engineer with whom she has three daughters aged between six and eleven.
“We’re doing it as a family – when he can’t go to the meetings, I go. And my children are there as well, because this is about them,” she said.
Mrs Khan explained: “When you look down the High Road you see just smog and if the development goes ahead it is just going to get worse.
“If the project goes ahead, we’ll move out.
“It seems insane to do something like that here – they will bring more people into an area where there is no space for it, it’s going to be so overcrowded.
“We lived in the city and we moved out and now we are losing the reason we moved out for. You don’t move out here to see high-rise towers.”
According to Mrs Khan, Redbridge Council ignored the local community’s concerns and chose instead to prioritise what she calls a “gold mine” project.
In the past, more than 3,000 people signed a petition opposing Lorimer Village, local schools wrote to the council to express their concerns and a coalition of representatives from four local political parties, Redbridge Trades Union Council and Mr Walker handed a letter to No.10 asking PM Rishi Sunak to intervene.
Stop the Tesco Toxic Towers campaigners said they will now launch a petition to collect 1,500 signatures to get a five-minute presentation in front of Redbridge Council. They will also set up a crowdfunding page to raise money to hire a medical expert to assess the impact of poor air quality in the area.
Bob Weston, chairman and chief executive of Weston Homes said: “There is an urgent need to provide more low-cost housing for Londoners so collaborations like this between major retailers and housebuilders makes an important contribution”.
Featured image: Andy Walker/Stop the Tesco Toxic Towers