Parties’ policies on incinerator suggest we’ll burn

VOTE 2014 logoAhead of next week’s Town Hall elections, WALTER CRONXITE provides you with analysis of the “differences” and similarities between the major parties on the key policies on which you’ll be voting.


THE ISSUE: As a society, we cannot continue to use land-fill for dumping our rubbish and waste. Government “green taxes” make it increasingly expensive. Environmentally, it is unsustainable.

Croydon’s Tories are fond of boasting how they have overseen an increase in recycling rates in the borough. Yet with the Viridor incinerator, they want to send more of the borough’s waste to be burned instead of recycled.

Often portrayed as an issue for wards in the north of the borough which are in the immediate “fall-out zone” from the incinerator, this is also an issue for the south of the borough due to the high volume of industrial traffic the building and fuelling of the incinerator will create.

Through the South London Waste Partnership, the four boroughs have committed to a contract with Viridor worth £1 billion over 25 years. Millions of tons of rubbish from the four boroughs, and from across south-east England, will be trucked in on polluting HGVs off the M25 and driven through Coulsdon, Purley and along the Purley Way to be burned at Beddington Lane.

Little, if any, on-site sorting of the waste will go on, so there is no way of knowing what toxic materials might be sent for incineration, with the particles and gasses being pumped into the atmosphere over Croydon.

The incinerator is to be built right next to what was supposed to be a cherished country park, and close to a site which is already home to hundreds of species of wildlife.

There is growing evidence that there is already an over-capacity of waste incinerators in the region, so a new one at Beddington may prove difficult to “fuel” and uneconomic to run.

THE BACKGROUND: Four years ago, the last time the people of Croydon had a chance to vote for who runs their council, the incinerator was a… coughs… hot topic.

Croydon Tories' incinerator pledge from 2010: a promise broken soon after

Croydon Tories’ incinerator pledge from 2010: a promise broken soon after (click on the image to read it in all its duplicitous glory)

The Conservatives, who had run Croydon Council since 2006, accused the Labour Party of “scaremongering” over its claim that together with three other south London boroughs – LibDem-run Sutton and Kingston and Labour-controlled Merton – they were planning to build a massive waste-burning  incinerator near the borough boundaries.

Croydon’s Tories even produced leaflets dismissing the claims, and in Waddon ward the three Conservative councillors – Clare Hilley, Tony Harris and cabinet member Simon Hoar – handed out leaflets saying that they would oppose any incinerator being built “in or on the borders of Croydon”. A few months after being re-elected, Hilley, Harris and Hoar all voted in favour of building the incinerator at Beddington Lane.

Councillor Hilley has opted not to seek re-election, while Hoar and Harris are standing again in the borough’s most marginal ward.


  • Conservative: The Croydon Tories don’t have a borough-wide manifesto. In any case, as they showed on the incinerator in 2010, what they say before an election cannot be relied upon. Everything indicates that Croydon’s Tories are firmly in favour of using millions of pounds of public money to pay a commercial firm to poison the air that generations of Croydon people will breathe.
  • Labour: They say they are opposed to the incinerator, but they hold back from saying that they will pull out of the Viridor contract. The difficulty for Croydon Labour here is that Merton, which is a Labour-run borough, is fully signed up to the Viridor deal and has not been persuaded to ditch it. Lambeth South MP Steve Reed OBE has been noticeably quiet on this issue.
  • LibDems: With Sutton and Kingston signed up to the Viridor scheme, Croydon’s LibDems are fully behind it. They say it is “an acceptable way of dealing with non-recyclable waste”. Acceptable to whom?
  • UKIP: As UKIP does not have a party whip, even if they do manage to get a handful of councillors elected to the Town Hall, once there they are free to vote as they wish. So anything they promise now is virtually worthless. They pledge a referendum on the incinerator – or another way of “burning” large amounts of public money.
  • Greens: This is as disappointing as it is surprising. The Greens do not say that they will scrap the incinerator. This is the clearest indication that for those who oppose the Viridor scheme, the prospect of paying compensation to the company for cancelling the deal is scaring them politically. Since each of the four boroughs will be paying Viridor around £10 million a year for 25 years under the contract, it appears even the Greens have put a price on the health of generations. Like UKIP, they too suggest a referendum. Catchy election slogan: “Vote Green, and get to vote again!”

INSIDE CROYDON’S ELECTION VERDICT: The 2014 party policies may appear to be different, but the end result will be the same for Croydon: unless the legal challenge against the incinerator is successful, or Viridor get 11th hour cold feet, then the Beddington Lane incinerator will be built.

We can therefore expect an increase in the volume of polluting HGV traffic throughout the borough; and potentially toxic pollution will be pumped into the air, day-in, day-out for decades, and all over the nice new £1 billion Hammersfield shopping centre. Nice.

Inside Croydon’s recent coverage of the local elections:

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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
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5 Responses to Parties’ policies on incinerator suggest we’ll burn

  1. I understand that a certain Shasha Khan of Croydon Green Party is leading the legal charge against the incinerator. So, it would seem to me that, far from sitting on the fence, it’s the Greens that are doing the most to stop this most unwelcome development.

    • You are correct about Khan’s fronting of the Judicial Review, but you would not be right about the stated policy in the manifestos.

      Khan is personally named in the JR, largely because an individual’s potential liability is much less than would be the case for any group of people, such as the Stop the Incinerator Campaign, which is a broad-based group including many Greens, Labour supporters and those politically unaligned.

      It seems that the Greens and Labour are relying on/hopeful that the Judicial Review succeeds, or Viridor get cold feet (the scheme may yet be seen as commercially unviable), because neither have stated they will cancel the deal should they win the power to do so.

  2. Vested interests like to diminish an incinerator’s contribution to local pollution.This study shows how high it can be:
    The industrial source increased the number of
    daily exceedances from 5 to 25 days compared to urban background AQMSs.When wind blew from the waste treatment sites it added on average 18.4μgm3 to urban background concentration.

  3. Shasha Khan says:

    We have called for referendum – which UKIP have copied – as a first step to stop the incinerator. Fellow incinerator campaigners in west Norfolk organised a referendum on the Willows incinerator. Having spoken to campaigners in Kings Lynn Without Incineration Network, they were clear that the referendum was integral in resulting in Norfolk County Council cancelling their £500m contract for their incinerator. If Greens locally pledged to break the contract with the South London Waste Partnership, without seeing what the penalties, we would have been accused of reckless naivety. Damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

  4. Shasha Khan says:

    What needs to happen is all other parties join the Greens in calling for a public inquiry on air pollution.

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