Strawberries for Pigs?

Little did we know at the time, but these little strawberries were usually engulfed in a toxic plume of benzene, naphthalene, and god only knows what else.


Sensibly, the wife refused to eat them.

We later discovered that official planning documents for the nearby old gasworks, which was being dug up in the open air for new homes to be built on the contaminated land, stated that no vegetables should be grown on the land. Ever!

Ealing Council Leader Julian Bell publicly blamed 'the wrong kind of wind', and – quite possibly – privately blamed 'fucking moaners'. All the while racking up over £30,000 in declared gifts and hospitality from developers including Berkeley Group, who were digging up the gasworks land.

Our soon-to-be local ward councillor and (ex-)Head of Planning Peter Mason knew all about the dangers (he tells us on Twitter) from the contaminated land back in 2009 when he campaigned against its development along with our MP Virendra Sharma (who said the development would be 'a disaster environmentally').

Yet no one told people living nearby to expect to be gassed in our own homes and gardens during the three month heatwave that was shortly to arrive.

In fact, Ealing Council announced on Twitter that the odours, while 'unpleasant', were 'not harmful to health' would be 'gone in a few days'.

I later discovered that there is scientific evidence that some people with Asian and African heritages are genetically more vulnerable to very serious and sometimes fatal health conditions from inhaling naphthalene, a fact acknowledged (although later denied, despite the published evidence) by Public Health England at a packed public meeting in July 2019.

No one told us.

Ealing Council, despite being fully aware of the potential dangers to health (and to the environment) failed to carry out any kind of Equalities Impact Assessment, and only helped Berkeley Group to rush through the decontamination process to maximise their profit from Crossrail in Southall.

Profit over people. Labour Council. Our lives didn't matter to them.

Now, we are being asked to believe that our MP (who has begun making the right noises two years too late – what happened to the nearly 1,000 signature petition I gave you in 2018 Mr Sharma?) cares and is on our side, and that our local ward councillor cares and always has done. Only Bell is – unusually for him – honest enough not to suddenly pretend he gives a shit about anyone but himself and looking after his own family.

At the packed public meeting in 2019, which our local ward councillor chaired, he and Bell refused to declare their financial interests with Berkeley Group, refused to let me speak with the microphone so that people couldn't hear that the Council, Berkeley Group, the Environment Agency and Public Health England had all colluded to cover up the real level of toxic and carcinogenic air pollution – that it was consistently above legal limits and rising – by manipulating, removing, and presenting the air quality data in such a way as to make it look like it was mostly within legal limits.

At the same meeting, our MP arrived late, mostly unseen, sat silently at the back of the room, and left early, mostly unseen. At the same meeting, a strangely truthful Bell admitted that he had 'known about the nuisance, the BAD nuisance, for two and a half years'! Yet nothing could be done.

Now Peter Mason, free from his constraints as Head of Planning after resigning following his failed coup attempt to take the leadership from Bell last year, is telling us that something could and should have been done, yet all of them remained silent and did nothing for years.