Have the Police been called in yet? The answer is YES!
According to a few Farnham-based air quality experts ‘Your Waverley’ has miscalculated two crucial ‘bias adjustment factors’ used to counter discrepancies between the council’s monitoring equipment.’ What monitoring equipment?
Now, we all know that the accuracy of ‘YW’s air quality data has been under the microscope for some considerable time – but the silence on the subject from the acting chief executive, now newly appointed Chief Executive Tom Horwood, has been quite deafening! So what is going on?
Perhaps because the audit is being carried out is by his previous employer, East Hants Council, or perhaps the council has not seen hide nor tail of the Air Quality Officer for over a year, or perhaps because the man who pays the bills Wen-am-I-leaving has left? Or because the other Waverley Wally, (The Omen) was also culpable has also left.
It is now almost six months since the ‘independent’ review was commissioned of the 2016 Air Quality Annual Status Report. This came after the report was criticised for grossly under-estimating Farnham’s air pollution problem!
- It came after Farnham-based air quality expert David Harvey submitted a ‘Level 3’ complaint to Waverley’s acting executive director Tom Horwood, the final stage of the borough council’s complaints procedure, demanding Waverley acknowledge and rectify its mistakes.
Waverley’s latest Air Quality Annual Status Report, published in May 2016, claimed air pollution – and specific levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – only “slightly exceeds” the national objective at three monitoring stations in Farnham; two elsewhere in The Borough and one in Wrecclesham Road.
However, this was challenged by Mr Harvey, a director of West Street firm ADM Ltd, who believed Waverley has dramatically under-estimated the problem after miscalculating two ‘bias adjustment factors’ used to counter discrepancies between the council’s monitoring equipment.
This makes the difference between there being an “overall improvement in air quality across the borough’ as claimed by the council, and the air quality has actually deteriorated.
In correspondence between the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and Waverley, DEFRA has asked Waverley to explain “potential discrepancies” in its data!
Waverley’s head of environmental services, Richard Homewood, confirmed in an email to Mr Harvey that the council had “engaged an independent consultant to review our 2016 data, calculations and the 2016 report”.
Mr. Harvey said: “As air quality is very much in the public eye at the moment it makes Waverley’s inability to publish correct data and its woeful response to my representations inexcusable. It is now over a year since DEFRA acknowledged that there was an error in the 2016 Air Quality Annual Status Report which is yet to be corrected or even acknowledged by Waverley.
“The failure by Waverley Borough Council to calculate, prepare and submit accurate and correct figures to DEFRA and also preparing an Annual Status Report for the public on air quality in the borough based on these inaccurate figures is serious and represents a failure of service by the local authority.
“Because the 2016 annual report is not fit for purpose Waverley Borough Council are not fulfilling their statutory duties under Part IV of the Environmental Act 1995 to review and assess air quality.”
Mr. Harvey has also complained about the conduct of Waverley’s officers, who he says have questioned his credibility and accused him of lying, and has accused the council of frequently moving its monitoring equipment “to get lower numbers”.
He has issued seven demands to Waverley, including that it withdraw the offending 2016 report, correct and re-issue it, investigate why no record of the bias calculation was kept, and put in place procedures and training “to ensure mistakes of this nature do not happen again”.
He wants Waverley to acknowledge its mistake in public and provide a full report to both the executive committee and full council.
A Waverley spokesman said last September, ‘Mr Harvey’s complaint about the accuracy of the report is being taken very seriously and we are currently working with DEFRA to review the 2016 report. At this stage, DEFRA has not confirmed to the council whether the data is flawed.
“Mr Harvey’s complaint about the collection of data used in the Air Quality report and the conduct of Waverley employees is being dealt with in accordance with the council’s complaints policy.
“As the complaint has now reached Stage 3, a review of the complaint under the previous stages is in progress and Mr Harvey will receive a response soon.”
Waverley is duty-bound to submit an annual air quality status report to DEFRA after three Air Quality Management Areas (AQMAs) were declared in Farnham, Godalming and Hindhead in 2004, following the discovery of excessive levels of NO2 which has been linked to as many as 40,000 premature deaths every year in the UK.
• It also comes after another unitary authority, Cheshire East Council, admitted ‘falsifying’ air quality figures, requiring hundreds of planning applications to be reviewed and prompted a police investigation.
- According to the BBC, Cheshire East Council said “deliberate and systematic manipulation” took place from 2012 to 2014, which made the council’s air quality data readings appear lower than they really were.