Councils’ huge compensation bill if incinerator is cancelled

ANDREW PELLING reports on a local residents’ meeting in Sutton where the consequences of Croydon’s secret negotiations and broken promises over the Beddington Lane waste incinerator were made plain

If residents persuade their local councils to drop the proposals to build a waste incinerator at Beddington Lane, on the boundary between Sutton and Croydon, it could lead to a penal multi-million pound compensation payment to contractor Viridor, all to be funded out of Council Tax.

That’s according to senior Sutton council officer Peter O’Connell, who was at a recent meeting held at Beddington Park primary school.

O’Connell said that the contract with Viridor, signed in secret after threats of legal action against those elected councillors who sought access to the detailed papers about the scheme, could lead to claims for millions if the councils changed their positions about the risks to locals’ health posed by the incinerator.

The council officer’s admission came on the same day that it became apparent that senior councillors meeting in secret had turned down an alternative option of burning waste at an incinerator 65 miles outside London’s built-up and heavily populated suburbs.

Perhaps it was this option that persuaded Waddon ward’s councillors – Simon Hoar, Clare Hilley and Tony Harris – to make a solemn promise before the election in May 2010 that “Croydon Conservatives will not support an incinerator in or near our borough”?

The wording of this pledge is interesting: they were not promising just their own opposition to an incinerator, but the opposition of “Croydon Conservatives”, which would include Croydon Council‘s brave leader Mike Fisher and the two local Tory MPs.

Back in February 2010, in a newsletter paid for by the Conservative party and distributed throughout the ward, these local councillors claimed, “Waddon also agrees with us that communities should not have an incinerator imposed upon them”, and cited their own survey in which only 1 per cent of people were in favour of the waste incinerator scheme.

Yet recently, these three councillors have gone silent on this vitally important issue, while Croydon Central MP Gavin Barwell has claimed that the promise was nothing to do with him.

What is particularly appalling is that very senior council officers and Conservative councillors have worked together in secret to risk the long-term polluting and poisoning of the people of Croydon.

The comment of the well-meaning council officer from Sutton said it all: “It’s a balance between the cheapest economic considerations and environmental considerations.”

That remark speaks volumes for a casual attitude towards Croydon residents’ health.

The attitude of residents at the meeting was one of resigned resentment. People listed a litany of broken promises about the degraded environment of Beddington Village that left them sceptical of any new assurances.

There were moments of intended and unintended humour at the meeting.

Sutton Liberal Democrat councillor Pathumal Ali, who controlled the incinerator meeting well in the absence of her two fellow Beddington North ward councillors, John Keys and John Leach (the chairman of Sutton council’s development control committee), got off to a fine start with the pun that “any burning issues” would be left to the end. One unimpressed resident voiced the opinion that the incinerator proposal was “rubbish”.

The emollient approach taken by Sutton Liberal Democrats and Sutton council officers was in contrast with the often confrontational attitude of Croydon’s councillors and senior officers at public meetings.

A resident did complain that an officer’s presentation was poorly communicated. “Aren’t you trained to communicate ?” he asked. The officer had to admit, disarmingly, that he was not.

The planning application for the waste incinerator will likely be with Sutton Council by May. The council will not give much attention to the issue of health risks, as it regards that as being a matter more for the Environment Agency that has to license the incinerator’s activities.

Viridor, which along with South West Water is part of the Pennon Group, is already in Beddington Lane and states that the new incinerator would be the “most modern facility.” Company representatives would not be drawn into whether potentially cancer-causing nano-particles might escape their process’s capture, instead repeatedly stating that EU regulations on emissions would be observed.

They gave reassurance that there would be no radioactive materials burnt. At a previous meeting, they had stated that the inclusion of radioactive burn facility at the plant had been a mistake. The admission of such a mistake in itself is not that reassuring.

The scheme will see Sutton, Croydon and other boroughs save millions of pounds in land-fill taxes, by burning the rubbish instead of burying it. And from the burned waste, Viridor will look at providing local heating as well as exporting 22 megawatts of energy to the grid.

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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, Croydon Council, Environment, Health, London-wide issues, Simon Hoar, Tony Harris, Waddon, Waste incinerator. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Councils’ huge compensation bill if incinerator is cancelled

  1. For the record Malcolm Wicks did authorise an Incinerator. But it was not in a residential area like what has happened on the Croydon – Sutton border.

  2. Pingback: Tuesday’s London Links

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