SHEFFIELD COUNCIL has been accused of dealing a community a death sentence after giving the green light to controversial plans for a new furniture superstore despite predictions pollution created will impact on the life expectancy of residents nearby.
Leading environmental lawyers and campaigners have vowed to fight the decision to approve a proposals for a new branch of IKEA, close to junction 34 of the M1, an area already plagued with problems relating to poor air quality.
A warning from Dr Jeremy Wight, Sheffield’s director of public health, that the store would lead to additional cases 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 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 went on to say 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 said 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’ unanimous ‘yes’ vote 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.”
Coun Jayne Dunn, who sits on the planning committee, said: “In this climate people need jobs, and that’s what I’ll be proud of when I drive in to Sheffield and see this store.”
Work is now set to get underway on South Yorkshire’s IKEA, which will create 400 jobs in-store, 200 in its construction phase and a further 80 associated, located just off junction 34 of the M1. The Swedish giant hopes to welcome its first customers in less than two years’ time.
Steve Pettyfer, deputy property manager at IKEA, 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 boost for employment in South Yorkshire, business secretary Vince Cable visited north Sheffield to launch the regeneration of a former steelworks.
The £42million Fox Valley development, which includes shops, a supermarket, restaurants and office space, is expected to create 900 jobs when it opens in 2016.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: ““With IKEA and the new development in Stocksbridge, it’s clear that we are seeing real progress in creating a stronger economy with thousands more jobs created within our region.
“We are finally seeing the benefits of taking the tough decisions to get our economy back on track. In fact Sheffield has already seen a record high for the number of people with a job, but this news should only see that picture improve even further. I’m going to carry on making the case for more investment in Sheffield so that we see this jobs boom continue.”