You’re dung for! Coulsdon and Waddon on sludge lorry route

There will be only five more years of stink for north Croydon residents and Purley Way shoppers to suffer when the malodorous winds blow from Beddington sewage farm.

That’s the hope that Thames Water officials imparted to two public meetings across the borough boundary in Beddington last week.

And if you are prepared to wait a bit longer, until 2023, there will be a park built on some of the reclaimed sewage lagoons. A nice park, right next to an incinerator.

The park was promised on the nearby Viridor refuse site 15 years ago by the Liberal Democrat council in Sutton, so the latest pledge is treated with great scepticism by Beddington residents.

But plans to change the use of the smelly sewage plant do seem closer to realisation. Sutton and Croydon councils, and the Environment Agency, have had to deal with complaints about the sewage smells from the plant for decades.

Now Thames Water, backed with new multi-million investment from the Chinese government, intends that instead of letting thousands of tons of sewage sweat in six large lagoons, it will build a plant to “de-water” the sewage (in plain Englsh, you’d describe that as “drying”), so that Croydon’s daily discharge will be fashioned into material “the consistency of elephant dung”, according to a company spokesman.

That is an unfortunate description of the gigantic amount of excrement that will then be shipped out by lorry from Beddington, through Waddon, Purley and Coulsdon, for dumping at another site. Bletchingly, the picturesque Surrey home of Croydon South’s MP, was not specifically mentioned as a possible venue for the transfered waste. Some of the better quality dung will be reserved for agricultural use.

This proposal suggests that Beddington, Waddon and the Purley Way is to become a traffic nightmare, with lorries arriving with the rubbish and waste from Sutton, Merton, Richmond, Kingston and Croydon to be burned in the incinerator, and another set of HGVs shuttling backwards and forwards with the elephant dung sludge.

The Beddington sewage farm has been in operation for almost 140 years. It was built in the 1870s only after the Croydon Board of Health lost a court case regarding the untreated human effluent in the River Wandle and “resisted the law till a committal was signed to commit the members of the Board to prison” for contempt of court.

The long-used lagoons will be excavated of years of accumulated filth. The smells of digging out the lagoons could prove to be more acute than the usual Beddington pong. Thames Water hopes that the trouble caused to our nostrils in the short term will be worth it.

The reduced use would release land for the long-promised park, although this will need to be approached with great care to avoid disturbing what is acknowledged as one of London’s biggest wildlife sanctuaries.

One of Beddington Sewage Farm's "accidental" wildlife havens

Beddington is acknowledged as “an accidental bird reserve”. The wide span of undisturbed space – the sewage lagoons are not open to the public – and presence of water and lots of insect life attracted by the processed sludge sees breeding and migratory birds flock to the site. More than 240 bird species have been recorded at Beddington, with typical January residents and visitors including the bearded tit, little egret, goldeneye, pintail, peregrine, water pipit, goosander, caspian gull, water rail, jack snipe, kittiwake, shelduck and redhead smew.

The RSPB has created a special habitat on the Beddington Sewage Farm for sand martins, summer visitors from Africa, while Beddington is also noted as the country’s second largest colony of tree sparrows.

The sewage farm was specifically named in the Mayor of London’s State of the Environment Report in 2003, alongside around 40 other places (minimum area 100 hectares) such as Hyde Park, Hampstead Heath, Mitcham Common and Farthing Down as a site of “Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation”.

Only time will tell how such status will sit with the building nearby of a waste incinerator, a scheme which seems set to go ahead with the blessing of the very same Conservative councillors from Waddon who in 2010 solemnly promised to voters that they would “oppose any incinerator being built in Croydon or on the border of Sutton”.

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Clare Hilley, Environment, London-wide issues, Mayor of London, Planning, Purley Way, Richard Ottaway MP, Waddon, Waste incinerator, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to You’re dung for! Coulsdon and Waddon on sludge lorry route

  1. ndavies144 says:

    Perhaps our friend Mr Rouse would like to make one of his front-line visits and gain some first hand experience of dealing with bad smells.

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