A COUNCIL in Yorkshire was accused of dealing some members of a community a death sentence as it gave the green light to plans for a new furniture superstore which campaigners claim will have a serious impact on life expectancy for nearby residents.
Environmental lawyers and campaigners have vowed to fight Sheffield Council’s decision to approve a proposals for a new branch of Ikea, despite objections over pollution and congestion.
Its location, close to junction 34 of the M1, is an area already plagued with problems relating to poor air quality.
Work set to get underway on the store this summer, which will create 400 jobs in-store and 200 in its construction phase.
The Swedish furniture company is expecting to welcome its first customers in less than two years.
A warning from Sheffield’s director of public health, Dr Jeremy Wight, that the store would lead to additional cases of respiratory and cardiovascular disease and a “small number” of premature deaths in the nearby community of Tinsley failed to deter the planning and highways committee from voting unanimously in favour of the plans yesterday.
Dr Wight told the meeting: “The exacerbation of poor air quality will undoubtedly cause more illness and very probably a small number of premature deaths.
“The adverse consequences are very unlikely to be outweighed by improvement in employment prospects and improvement in the economy.”
The director added that he did not believe mitigation measures which have been offered by Ikea, including free delivery to a handful of Sheffield postcodes, a tree planting scheme and public transport initiatives, would “have any impact” on the negative effects on health he has predicted.
Earlier this year Sheffield rated one of the worst in the UK in the World Health Organisation’s rundown of urban areas breaching safe levels of air quality. Explaining their reasons for approving the application, planning officers claimed the committee said the city’s air quality action plan does not state a development should be refused if it results in additional pollution.
Protesters from Tinsley residents’ action group stormed out ahead of councillors’ decision on the application, which was first submitted 13 months ago.
Muzafer Rahman, of Tinsley residents’ action group, said: “Ikea is bigger than a deprived community like Tinsley. Councillors want nice furniture at the cost of residents’ early deaths.”
But the deputy property manager at Ikea, Steve Pettyfer, said: “This is our most sustainable store ever. We’re delighted the council has supported our decision. It recognises the significant contribution it will bring to the local economy and jobs market.”
In a further employment boost in South Yorkshire, Business Secretary Vince Cable visited north Sheffield yesterday to launch the regeneration of a former steelworks. The £42m Fox Valley development, which includes shops, a supermarket, restaurants and office space, is expected to employ 900 people when it opens in 2016.
Welcoming the Ikea decision, Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg said: “It’s clear that we are seeing real progress in creating a stronger economy with thousands more jobs created within our region.”