An investigation has revealed that the council deliberately misrepresented data on air pollution levels.

Cheshire East monitors air quality in Macclesfield and the borough and submits findings to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

But a council report revealed there have been a series of inaccuracies in data submitted to Defra.

An internal investigation by auditors stated ‘serious errors in the council’s air quality data’ as a result of ‘deliberate and systematic manipulation of data’.

This has caused outrage among councillors.

Coun Janet Jackson, who represents Macclesfield Central, said: “I’m very concerned the figures have been deliberately misrepresented. It’s extremely serious. There are already areas in central Macclesfield which breach the legal limits for air pollution and if the figures have been misrepresented then the problem could be worse than we thought or there could be other areas of concern. We need to think about the residents who live in these places and are subject to that all the time.

“This is just another in a long line of scandals for the council, a case of ‘here we go again’.”

The findings, presented at a cabinet meeting on Friday, July 28, relate to figures for 2012, 2013 and 2014.

The report stated: “It is clear that these errors are the result of deliberate and systematic manipulation of data from a number of diffusion tubes.

“The council has been exposed to unacceptable risks to the security of its air quality data as a result of failings within the service to ensure that adequate processes, procedures and systems were in place.”

The council has now apologised for the inaccuracies and has reviewed internal processes to ensure the risk of data adjustment is minimised.

A second phase of the investigation suggests some planning applications in the south of the borough may have been affected as a result of the manipulation, however the council has confirmed applications in Macclesfield have not been affected.

Sean Hannaby, director of Planning and Sustainable Development, said: “I would like to sincerely apologise on behalf of the council. We assure everyone that we have done everything we can to rectify these failings. Phase two of the external investigation included a review of planning applications where publication of revised air quality data may have affected the planning decisions.”

A spokesman for Cheshire East would not reveal the name of the person or persons involved or the motivation behind it. He said: “This is a complex situation and the council is reviewing all aspects in order to ensure that appropriate action is taken to ensure that this does not happen again. However we can not discuss individual HR matters.”

Cheshire Police has confirmed they are reviewing the matter. A Cheshire Police spokesman said: “We can confirm that the matter has been brought to our attention and officers will review it to establish if any criminal offences may have occurred.”

UPDATED

A probe into the falsifying of air quality readings has found all planning applications were ‘granted correctly’, the council has said.

Cheshire East Council called in consultants Bureau Veritas after it found it had provided incorrect air quality data to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) between 2012 and 2014.

Now a report has concluded that while “deliberate and systematic manipulation” took place at 38 monitoring sites including Cross Street in Macclesfield and Broken Cross, it wouldn’t have made a difference to the outcome of the 43 planning applications granted near these sites during the period in question.

Among those schemes scrutinised were: R H Stevens Transport Ltd, 88 homes at Gunco Lane; The King’s School, 300 homes at Fence Avenue; The King’s School, 150 homes at Westminster Road; Conversion of offices at Union Street into 15 flats; 15 new dwellings at Winlowe, Bank Street; 14 townhouses at The Towers, Park Green; the Silk Street scheme in Macclesfield Town Centre; and housing at the former TA Centre, Chester Road.

Coun Ainsley Arnold, cabinet member for housing and planning, said: “Following this thorough analysis, we can confirm that all planning applications have been granted correctly and that no additional mitigation measures would have been required had the correct data been used at the time.”

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However, following the probe, the council needs a revised air quality assessment for a planning application for 150 homes in Padgbury Lane, Congleton.

Local authorities are obliged to monitor local air quality and submit their findings to Defra to analyse trends and help shape policy to reduce air pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide from exhaust emissions.

The Bureau Veritas report found the falsified data was from testing stations “spread over a wide geographical area” which implied that the manipulation “was not motivated by a wish to favour specific sites”.

Cheshire East has so far not revealed the name of the person or persons involved in reporting the incorrect data.

Cheshire Police is investigating whether any crimes were committed.

For the full report visit www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/airquality

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