The Senior Consultant introduced the report
and stated that it was formed of three parts: process; concerns;
and next steps. He explained that the HEqIA draft had been received
on 3 August 2020, and Thurrock had responded on 1 October 2020 with
their comments. He explained that HE had responded to
Thurrock’s comments in February 2021, and the team were
currently looking at HE’s response and comparing these to the
HEqIA submitted at the DCO Version 1. He stated that this should be
completed in a few weeks, and the team would then meet with HE to
discuss any concerns. He then described how CIPHAG had held nine
meetings between November 2018 and July 2020, and this was now
being re-started on a more transparent basis, and included all
relevant local authorities and Public Health England. The Senior
Consultant explained that the CIPHAG group were currently deciding
on who would chair the meeting, but stated that HE senior
management would be involved to ensure decisions could be made and
move the meetings forward. He mentioned that there would be 4-5
more CIPHAG meetings, with the first one being at the end of March
to examine outstanding issues. He also explained that the Public
Health Strategic Lead was currently garnering support from other
local authorities for a separate independent audit into the HEqIA
from the DCO Version 1, and this would be an ongoing process over
the next few months. The Senior Consultant explained that Thurrock
currently had concerns regarding elements of the baseline data,
methodology, results, and mitigation; for example air quality data,
access to open spaces, and noise and vibration levels.
Councillor Muldowney questioned the response to the draft HEqIA, and queried whether HE had responded to Thurrock’s comments regarding the lack of baseline data. The Senior Consultant explained that Matt Palmer, the new HE Executive Director, had agreed that any decisions that required resolution could go through him directly, which was a step forward. Councillor Muldowney felt that although it was good to see increased transparency through CIPHAG, there was still a lack of data and monitoring information. She thanked the Public Health team for their hard work on this report, particularly during the pandemic, but questioned whether the HEqIA had moved on since it was last brought before the Task Force in October. She also queried whether air pollution could be mitigated, such as the effects of PM2.5, which the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs had called the ‘biggest risk to health’. She stated that Thurrock already had increased incidence of cardiovascular diseases, COPD, and other underlying conditions that would be exacerbated during construction phase and reduce their quality of life and increase likelihood of premature death. Councillor Muldowney felt pleased to see that the team were pushing for HE to monitor PM2.5, and felt that HE should agree to this as part of the governments green agenda. The Senior Consultant stated that the air quality methodology was included as part of specific guidance within the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges (DMRB), as well as further requirements in the National Policy Statement (NPS). He explained that although the NPS was the main policy guide for air quality assessment and mitigation, there was often friction between this document and the DMRB, although both were not clear on acceptable levels of PM2.5. He explained that due to staff sickness there were currently no environmental health officers in Thurrock at present to cover this matter, so Stantec were working hard on this issue, to try and ensure that HE monitored PM10, PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide levels along the route. The Strategic Lead Public Health added that the summary provided in the report were comments relating to the working draft, which did not contain all information required. The version shared recently for DCO version 1 now includes some of the missing information and that the team were working hard to review the HEqIA in detail, including any previously missing information and to understand the remaining issues.
The TCAG Representative echoed Councillor Muldowney’s thanks to the Public Health team for their work on the report, and highlighted that the health impacts of the route would affect all residents. She urged residents and Councillors to campaign for the inclusion of the World Health Organisation PM2.5 standards in the new UK Environmental Bill. She also felt pleased to see that the new CIPHAG group would be more transparent, and asked if the public or Task Force Members would be able to view minutes from these meetings, or if the meeting would be live-streamed. The Senior Consultant responded that as CIPHAG meetings were technical, they would not be publicised or live-streamed, but stated that he could provide regular updates on CIPHAG at Task Force meetings. He outlined that the transparency of CIPHAG would be of a technical nature, and would improve information sharing between HE and Thurrock. The Resident Representative questioned if the new CIPHAG would be chaired by an independent person, and if this was an important role. The Senior Consultant responded that the previous Chair had been Dr Karen Lucas of Leeds University, who had been a leading authority. He explained that he did not know who the next chair would be, as this would be decided by HE. He felt that although an independent chair would be important, if HE were more transparent and responsive to concerns, it might not be as critical as with previous CIPHAG meetings.
Councillor Allen highlighted that Thurrock had increased levels of respiratory illnesses, such as COPD, and stated that increased levels of air pollution could cause diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, and strokes. He stated that air pollution accounted for 40,000 premature deaths across the UK, which equated to 8.3% of all premature deaths and cost the NHS £40billion per year. He felt concerned regarding PM2.5 and PM10, as well as particulates from brake and tyre dust, which could still be harmful and could come from electric vehicles as well as petrol and diesel vehicles.