The Stop the Incinerator Campaign could yet be denied its day in court – all for a lack of money.
The campaign was expecting to begin its judicial review of the Beddington incinerator scheme – which has the backing of Sutton, Croydon, Kingston and Merton councils – at the High Court in The Strand on Thursday morning. They are also planning a protest outside the court for 9.30 that morning.
But mounting legal costs have seen the campaign urgently needing a five-figure sum or risk losing its case before the judge has even taken his seat.
The case has been brought by a single individual, Shasha Khan, the local Green party activist, in an effort to minimise the potential damages if the case fails to succeed. Viridor and their local authority partners in the South London Waste Partnership have threatened all sorts of dire financial consequences against the campaigners.
Leading the campaigners’ legal team has been Justine Thornton, a noted barrister working in environment law, who is also the wife of Ed Miliband.
Despite year-round fund-raisers, quiz nights, the backing of a number of leading figures and donations from generous supporters, the campaign is still short of funds.
“Shasha has stood up for many in Croydon and the surrounding boroughs to oppose the incinerator,” one of his supporters said today. “He now needs us to unite once more. He needs to put up £8,000 immediately for his solicitors’ and barristers’ costs. £8,000 has already been raised.
“We all need to ask how much is it worth to us to safeguard our community’s health and environment and back the man – it is frightening being out there alone.”
It will not be the first time that a resident-led attempt to use the courts to block the council steamroller has been frustrated by lawyers’ mounting bills: last year, an attempt to stop Croydon Tories’ unlawful sale of elements of its Riesco collection of Chinese pottery foundered against mounting legal costs.
A judicial review is supposed to be the citizen’s legal recourse to challenge the conduct of local authorities and other major players, with a High Court judge acting as arbiter. In reality, with an “entry fee” of at least £15,000, the legal profession’s bills have effectively priced most earnest and honest citizens out of ever being able to hold their councils to account.
“Our councils are able to use our own money to fight against our complaints in a judicial review,” a member of the Riesco campaign team told Inside Croydon. “And if they don’t beat us with legal argument from their lawyers, then nine times out of 10, our own lawyers will frustrate our own case with their legal bills.”
In Croydon, Labour took control of the Town Hall in May. After five years of using the incinerator campaign as part of its political opposition against the previously Tory-controlled council, the Labour group has suddenly gone very quiet about its environmental concerns over rubbish burning going on in an industrial scale right on the borough boundary at Beddington.
Council leader Tony Newman has even taken to referring to the incinerator as the “energy from waste plant”, the preferred terminology of contractors Viridor, who have a £1 billion publicly financed 25-year contract at stake.
Requests for sight of the full, unredacted contract with Viridor by the campaign’s legal team were refused for months, despite the legal principle of disclosure before a case such as this.
“There’s a sense that Labour are waiting for the judicial review, to see how that plays out,” a campaign supporter said. “The myth that Labour in Croydon and in Merton have bought in to is that it would be far too expensive to withdraw from the Viridor contract now – though they refused to reveal the details of the contract to prove it.
“That just ignores the argument that nothing is too much when the health of generations of our children are at stake, and there is long-term scientific evidence from other urban incinerators in south London that show a rise in infant mortality and other illnesses,” the campaigner said.
“Please do not leave Shasha Khan to stand alone for Croydon. Please back him and ask your neighbours to pitch in.”
- You can donate online here
- Visit the campaign website here
- Read Inside Croydon’s archive of articles about the environmental catastrophe that is the Beddington incinerator by clicking here
Coming to Croydon
- The Goon Show, Spread Eagle Theatre, Oct 8-11
- David Lean Cinema: Boyhood, Oct 9
- Upper Norwood Library meeting, Oct 13
- David Lean Cinema: Grand Central, Oct 14
- Norwood Society Talk: From Fire Station to Theatre, Oct 16
- David Lean Cinema: Finding Vivian Maier, Oct 16
- Cinema Ruskin film show, Oct 18
- South Croydon business breakfast, Oct 18
- Purley War Memorial Hospital health fair, Oct 18
- David Lean Cinema: Mood Indigo, Oct 23
- This Was The World and I Was King, Spread Eagle, Oct 23-25
- Upper Norwood Library Book Club, 2.30pm, Oct 25
- David Lean Cinema: Ilo Ilo, Oct 28
- CODA’s Wind In The Willows, Charles Cryer, Carshalton, Oct 29-Nov 1
- David Lean Cinema: Belle, Oct 30
- NHS free health fair, Central Parade, New Addington, Oct 31
- St Giles School opening morning, Nov 5
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- The Last Sense of Sudden, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 27-29
- Ghost Stories for Christmas, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 3
- Fog Horn Funnies, Spread Eagle Theatre, Dec 6
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
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