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Families in dust up over Westferry printworks ‘pollution’ on Isle of Dogs

PUBLISHED: 18:00 01 August 2018 | UPDATED: 17:43 03 August 2018

Freddy Cooper, aged 5, having to breathe at home with an inhaler. Picture: Mike Brooke

Freddy Cooper, aged 5, having to breathe at home with an inhaler. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

Little Freddy Cooper has to have breathing mask to survive the day living next to a massive demolition site on the Isle of Dogs.

Freddy and mum Jolene Cooper at their Millwall home next to the Westferry Printworks development site. Picture: Mike BrookeFreddy and mum Jolene Cooper at their Millwall home next to the Westferry Printworks development site. Picture: Mike Brooke

Now a town hall inquiry has been called for by a Tower Hamlets councillor following complaints from families about clouds of dust and a fear that there’s more to come over the next seven years.

Five-year-old Freddy has had croup seven times, according to his mum, since work began the other side of his garden wall at the massive Westferry Printworks site next to Millwall’s Bartkantine housing estate.

“My son has had croup seven times,” his mum Jolene tells today’s East London Advertiser.

“He has a lot of illness and time off school. He’s been coughing his little heart out.

Pensioner Rita Cooper, 68, needing inhaler just to breathe. Picture: Mike BrookePensioner Rita Cooper, 68, needing inhaler just to breathe. Picture: Mike Brooke

“We cannot live like this for another summer, let alone for another seven years.”

Freddy was diagnosed with croup by the Barkantine GP practice.

His grandmum Rita Cooper, 68, living in the same terraced house in Starboard Way, off Tiller Road, also needs a respiratory inhaler.

She said: “The dust and constant noise made life unbearable last summer. I have asthma and can’t even have my windows open. Our quality of life has gone downhill.”

Sally Ralph in her home on Millwall's Barkantine estate overlooking mounds of dust. Picture: Mike BrookeSally Ralph in her home on Millwall's Barkantine estate overlooking mounds of dust. Picture: Mike Brooke

Rita has a letter from Barkantine GP practice that mentions construction near her home and that her symptoms are getting worse. It states: “This is due to the dust and pollution brought on by the construction.”

The neighbours had months of concrete dust blowing into their homes during last summer’s demolition with 30ft mounds of rubble still left today.

They worry that work is starting up all over again for the next seven years on the 15 acres being redeveloped.

David Ralph, 68, a retired builder, also has severe breathing problems and a heart condition. His second-floor balcony overlooks the printworks site with its mounds of concrete dust visible.

Five-year-old Freddy has had seven attacks of coupe in last 12 months. Picture: Mike BrookeFive-year-old Freddy has had seven attacks of coupe in last 12 months. Picture: Mike Brooke

His wife Sally said: “It’s turned into a nightmare living here. Everything was covered in dust. The whole flat, furniture and clothes smelt of dust—then the coughing started.”

Neighbour Hanife Karadag swept up a full shovel of dust from her garden. She couldn’t hang washing out on Sunday when it was breezy because of dust that she could smell in the air.

Community liaison meetings have been held with the developers and the families have suggested humidifiers be installed in their homes to clean the air of dust, as construction activity has now begun on the site.

The developers, Mace, said when contacted by the Advertiser that it monitors dust levels to ensure “we limit its impact on the surrounding area”.

The company has an agreement with Tower Hamlets Council, it says, to reduce dust and set “a safe level of dust in the atmosphere around the development”.

Mace said in a statement: “Our equipment shows that we have not exceeded that level. We monitor levels of dust at Westferry Printworks and have a number of measures in place to ensure we limit its impact on the surrounding area. ”

Water vapour sprays have been used, but it doesn’t wash with the families who have sent letters to the council and had meetings with their own One Housing social landlords appealing for help.

They claim they’ve been given the cold shoulder, however.

Freddy’s mum said: “It’s not their responsibility, so no-one cares.”

One Housing responded with a statement to the paper saying: “Living next to a construction site is not ideal. We are trying to minimise disruption.”

Cllr Andrew Wood, who represents Millwall and Canary Wharf, has begun a town hall inquiry and has raised the pollution issue with the mayor.

He said: “It’s a big exposed area and the dust will be disturbed again when building work starts.”

The Westferry site owned by Northern & Shell has planning consent for a 700-unit housing complex, while a second application has since been made to double the size to 1,500 homes in six tower blocks reaching up to 46 storeys. Construction is likely to last seven years.

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