Business success and pollution concern are side-by-side in Tilbury. Port celebrates expansion that will boost jobs and put trade on tracks but concern is in the air over dust

THE ongoing success and investment into the Port of Tilbury and its new sister venture Tilbury 2 has been boosted by the announcement of a new 25-year partnership between the port and the Tarmac Construction company.

However, residents in the town remain concerned about the impact of a growing industrial area which is adjacent to their homes – and once again the question of dust, which some residents claim blights their lives has been raised.

Ongoing concerns from residents have surfaced and resurfaced over a number of years – and it was concern over the state of air pollution that formed a huge part of the election campaign of then independent councillor Allen Mayes, who battled hard to win his seat in Tilbury on a ticket of local health.

It swept him to success in the Tilbury Riverside and Riverside Park ward in 2019 with more than 50 per cent of the local vote. Cllr Mayes spearheaded a testing programme of the dust and at the time he was vehement that air pollution was a problem to be addressed and among his many damning comments at the time was this one: ”The results show that the dust does contain materials that are harmful to people’s health.

“Although the testing has revealed that materials such as copper, mercury etc are below the ‘acceptable limit’, I would argue that prolonged exposure to such materials in your lungs will be detrimental to people’s health.

“The people of Tilbury are breathing this in every single day. That is not acceptable to me and we must now see action.

“Authorities simply hoping that this will not have an impact on people’s health in the long term is not acceptable. Any dust entering people’s lungs is detrimental to health and this test reveals some pretty nasty materials are present within the dust itself. I call on the Port of Tilbury and all relevant authorities to conduct further testing over a longer period of time.”

However, despite his outright condemnation of the ruling Conservative group on the council, in January 2020 – just nine months after being elected – - he was wooed by the Tories, offered the newly created job of Cabinet member for Health and Air Quality (which came with a special responsibility allowance of £11,500 in addition to his basic councillor allowance of £9,200) and he joined the gang he had claimed was bullying the borough.

Since then he has been remarkably quiet on the dust problem.

Last month Thurrock Nub News was contacted by a number of residents in Fairfax Road in Tilbury, angry about their continued exposure to black dust that continually settles in their gardens and on their homes.

Community minded and much-respected local resident Anne Pyman – for 40 years the sheltered housing officer at Mahoney Hall in Tilbury – and her husband Ricky told us they have been campaigned for three years about the dust – but feel their concerns are being trampled over.

“The fine dust is black, it settles everywhere, you can see it on the sills of the windows and on cars and in the garden on the furniture there. It can’t be good,” said Anne, who has contracted breathing problems that affect her health.

Thurrock Nub News referred those concerns to Cllr Mayes on Wednesday, 31 March. Despite sending him a reminder, we have still had no response.

The case has been taken up by Tilbury St Chads ward councillor, John Allen. He tells Nub News: “It's been more than evident that our town has suffered a serious problem with dust deposits for many years

“However, for the last two to four years I would say the problem has escalated and has got worse covering the whole town with this dark-coloured magnetic dust compound!

“The source needs locating and if it is within the port I feel it needs to do everything in its power to regulate its emissions into the atmosphere and minimise the pollution of the air we residents breathe.

“I would like the council and the Environment Agency to further test the air we have to breathe here in Tilbury. We must put residents’ health above everything.”

Cllr Allen says he was shocked, on questioning the council and submitting pictures showing air pollution, to find that despite its supposed increased commitment to combating air pollution it does not have an air quality officer – and is not conducting tests in Tilbury!

He shared a message he has received from the council, which reads: “As Thurrock does not currently have an air quality officer, environmental protection officers are seeking costs for air quality consultants to provide an air quality assessment in Tilbury. This would assist in determining any breach of the Air Quality Objectives and elevated levels of particulates. Any formal assessment would also require another Thurrock district area to be monitored at the same time to ensure fair comparative data is collected.

“Air quality in Tilbury can also be impacted by significant ongoing development, agricultural dust, road construction and transboundary pollution from far afield or neighbouring boroughs and their dockside aggregate activities in Kent.

“Tilbury Docks is within Port Health jurisdiction and business processes within the dock confines are regulated by both Port Health and The Environment Agency. Where complaints regarding the docks and EA processes are made directly to the council we refer the details to the regulators for their investigation. They will be notified of this latest complaint.

“Officers have reviewed the photograph attached with this complaint and determined that the pollution witnessed was from an ongoing trans boundary pollution event (highlighted in the media around the south east) and unlikely to be limited to the docks as the only source.

“As an informative, last week the MET Office forecast showed a high particulate matter pollution episode affecting the South East of England (among some other areas), that was likely to continue until at least Thursday 1 April 2021.

“Please continue to report concerns from processes within Tilbury Docks to Port Health Officers using their website and where relevant to The Environment Agency using their freephone 24/7 incident hotline: 0800 80 70 60.”

Cllr Allen says he was ‘staggered' to learn that no checks are being carried out and he has called for urgent action to address the issue. “Absolutely nothing is ever achieved in terms of cutting pollution and protecting air quality in the area,” he told Nub News.

“It's surrounding residents who suffer with this problem and to just pass the buck effectively across to Port Health and The Environment Agency to deal with or 'not' as the case may be is shameful.”

A spokesperson for the Port of Tilbury said: “The Port of Tilbury is a responsible business and we take our role as a major operator in the community seriously.

“We comply with all the relevant regulatory requirements and we are subject to regular statutory inspections and scrutiny of our operations by the relevant agencies, which we welcome.”

Meanwhile, the Port is celebrating the news of the further expansion of Tilbury2which will see Tarmac build the UK’s largest construction materials aggregates terminal – and it says green credentials and emission issues are at the forefront of its thinking.

The terminal will use the latest technology and be capable of discharging the world’s largest deep-sea vessels.

Tarmac said: “The riverside location combined with a dedicated railhead means efficient delivery of construction materials into Central London without the use of heavy road haulage, supporting Tarmac’s commitment to reducing emissions and creating a safer environment for other road users.”

Tarmac senior vice president Peter Buckley said: “Construction materials have a critical role to play in helping deliver the major infrastructure and construction projects which are supporting the UK’s economic recovery and long-term development. Our agreement with Forth Ports underlines a continued focus by Tarmac to develop industry leading facilities which will support these schemes, with the Build Back Better agenda and a clear commitment to driving sustainability and enhanced efficiencies.”

Mark Wood, regional managing director, materials south at Tarmac, said: “We’re delighted to have established a long-term partnership with Forth Ports. The development of the new construction terminal demonstrates our commitment to ensuring the long-lasting security of high-quality aggregate supplies into London and the South East.

“Using the Thames and local rail network as a means of transporting vital materials to support the region’s infrastructure ambitions, not only removes vehicles from already congested roads around the capital but supports our customers with the delivery of a more sustainable built environment. We look forward to the official opening of the terminal and building on our relationship with Forth Ports over the coming years.”

Charles Hammond, Chief Executive of Forth Ports, owners of the Port of Tilbury, said: “This is an exciting time for Tilbury2 as we sign a significant, long term agreement with Tarmac to create the UK’s largest construction materials terminal.

“This facility will be a game changer in the coronavirus economic recovery campaign to Build Back Better and is a good example of high productivity investment adding value to raw materials. I am pleased that the signing of this agreement comes at the same time as we have been awarded Freeport status, which will bring further investment and jobs to the area.”

Peter Ward, Commercial Director at the Port of Tilbury, said: “We warmly welcome Tarmac to Tilbury2. This new terminal will be truly multimodal, and this strategic location will ensure that the construction industry in London and the South East of England can have fast access to the materials they require.”

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