Incinerator campaigners to take battle to judicial review

Environment campaigners in south London want to use a judicial review to challenge the decision to allow Viridor and Sutton Council to build a waste incinerator on Metropolitan Open Land at Beddington Lane.

Justine Thornton: has provided legal advice to the Stop the Incinerator Campaign

Justine Thornton: has provided legal advice to the Stop the Incinerator Campaign

The decision was announced on Wednesday by Sir Edward Lister, the Mayor of London’s unelected deputy, in the absence of Boris Johnson, who was too busy combining a holiday with a book tour in Australia.

“Our solicitors tell us we have legal grounds on a range of issues to seek a judicial review of the decision to allow the incinerator to go ahead,” a source at the Stop the Incinerator Campaign told Inside Croydon.

The campaigners have previously had advice from barrister Justine Thornton, an environment law specialist and the partner of Ed Miliband, the leader of the Labour party.

“We have to have further discussions with our lawyers,” the campaigner said, “so the battle is not over, and we will continue to push for the alternatives to incineration to be considered.”

Fund-raising to help pay towards the costs of a judicial review – estimated to run to £50,000 – begins this weekend, at the Carshalton Environmental Fair on Bank Holiday Monday. Viridor, meanwhile, will be able to dip into their multi-million pound profits, made from their various contracts with local authorities, paid for out of public funds, while Sutton and other boroughs who defend the case will be able to meet their legal costs from … Council Tax.

A key element to the campaigners’ objections will be how Sir Edward’s decision directly contradicts the Mayor’s own London Plan. This states:

It is envisaged the minimum greenhouse gas performance will need to achieve at least a positive carbon outcome, whereby the direct emissions from the technology are offset by emissions savings from the generation of energy in the form of heat, electricity and transport fuel. This would, for example, tend to rule out new mass burn incineration facilities of mixed waste generating electricity only, but may allow combustion of biomass waste where both heat and power generated are used.

The italics are ours.

Viridor plan to use few, if any, staff to sort and check the waste as it arrives in thousands of HGVs from Kingston, Merton and across south-east England. So the company will exercise little control over whether householders are sending only non-recyclable waste for incineration.

Much of the environmentalists’ complaints surrounds how Viridor – and the Environment Agency which has granted a licence for the plant – have no idea what sort of pollutants that the incinerator will release into the atmosphere in a heavily populated residential area of London.

Viridor’s Bermondsey plant had been operating for more than 15 years before action by Greenpeace forced the company to spend £35,000 – considerably less than the cost of mounting a legal challenge – for a three-year study of the amount of dioxins and other gasses being emitted as a result of their operation.

The Bermondsey plant started burning waste in the mid-1990s. To this day, it has not generated any energy from waste, adding to the environmentalists’ scepticism over Viridor’s various unsubstantiated claims for their incinerators.

Croydon Tories' incinerator pledge from 2010: not worth the paper it was printed on

Croydon Tories’ incinerator pledge from 2010: not worth the paper it was printed on

In the meantime, researchers have shown how infant mortality rates have increased markedly in the last two decades in areas of London where the plant’s exhaust have been blown.

Another approach for those opposed to the incinerator could be for pressure to be brought on the local authorities which have signed up to the South London Waste Partnership.

Conservatives in Croydon, led by their cabinet member Simon “Cheap But Not Free” Hoar in Waddon, campaigned against the incinerator in 2010, but once elected into control of the Town Hall, they voted in favour of the scheme. The Tories in Kingston also support the scheme. Sutton, where local Tories and Labour oppose the incinerator, is under LibDem control.

Merton, however, has a Labour-run council. Croydon’s Labour group has already called on their party colleagues across south London to honour the party’s policy. “I would remind my colleagues in Merton of the London Labour party manifesto last year, when Ken Livingstone was running for Mayor, when he pledged to scrap the incinerator plans,” Tony Newman, the leader of Labour’s opposition group in Croydon, told Inside Croydon in April.

This week, Newman described Lister’s decision as “disgraceful”, saying that Croydon is being made a “dumping ground”. Newman said, “This is putting profit before people and will do nothing to improve the environment. Instead we should be looking to dramatically improve recycling rates and not siting waste plants of any description in such densely populated areas.”

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2 Responses to Incinerator campaigners to take battle to judicial review

  1. We’ll have a bucket for a collection at the Labour Party stall in block J at the environmental fair!

  2. Pingback: Incinerator campaigners to take battle to judic...

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