Wildlife and fire puts the heat on Beddington incinerator plans

Tuesday’s massive fire at the Beddington Lane sewage works and some rare migrating birds are to be used by campaigners to strengthen their arguments against plans for a £1billion waste incinerator scheme on the site.

The London Fire Brigade warned thousands of residents in Mitcham, Beddington, Waddon and nearby, downwind areas to close all windows on a warm summer’s evening because of the potentially noxious fumes from the fire – providing a real-life example of how the incinerator may affect air quality in the surrounding area for decades to come.

“That’s the pollution that you can see and smell,” one resident opposed to the incinerator plans said. “When the incinerator is up and running you won’t smell it or see it but it will damage you faster, and maybe even worse.”

A number of studies have linked particles created in incineration to health risks, including cancer and infant mortalities

The massive, black plumes of smoke did not affect the likes of Conservative councillor for Waddon, Clare Hilley, who was elected in 2010 on a platform that included a solemn pledge to oppose the building of an incinerator in or on the boundaries of Croydon.

Having, along with her Waddon Tory colleagues Simon Hoar and Tony Harris, voted in favour of the incinerator at a Town Hall meeting, Hilley has opted to move out of the area – and out of the Beddington “fall-out” zone – to the safety Addiscombe, which was unaffected by the fire fumes.

It took 75 firefighters around 10 hours to get Tuesday’s fire under control – a blaze caused by a minor electrical fault. No one was hurt.

As the Stop the South London Incinerator Campaign has long stated, the Beddington Lane location, in the midst of a heavily populated residential area, close to a primary school and park, is entirely inappropriate.

Migratory birds that use the nearby nature reserve could offer the strongest reason for blocking the incinerator plans as the process enters public consultation by waste management company Viridor.

Fears of long-term health risks carry less weight in the planning process than protection of Metropolitan Open Land.

Sutton Council is required by law to decide applications in accordance with local, regional and national planning policies, unless ‘material considerations’ indicate otherwise. Material considerations include issues like traffic, noise, design, metropolitan open land and safety,” a council spokesman has said.

Objectors may therefore focus their efforts on the site being designated to be parkland by 2022. Viridor’s agreement under the South London Waste Plan is to operate the incinerator plant – burning waste from Croydon, Sutton, Kingston, Merton and making massive profits for disposing of rubbish from across south London, Kent and Surrey for at least 25 years. To spend £250 million on building the plant to operate for less than a decade would make little commercial sense.

Gordon Ross, from Sutton and Croydon Green party, has launched an appeal to raise £5,000 towards the costs of a legal challenge to the incinerator.

“We have sought legal advice, and there are legal challenges we can mount, but they cost money,” Ross said.

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