So, Westfield and Hammerson are to build a £1 billion shopping mall in the centre of town, and thousands of new homes are to be built there, too, and they will all have a waste incinerator parked on the borough boundary, pumping smoke and potentially noxious fumes into the atmosphere above Croydon’s homes, schools and hospitals for two decades.
With the scales of justice seemingly tipped in favour of big business interests, south London environmental campaigners who brought a judicial review of the local authority’s planning decision were handed down the devastating news in a ruling from Mrs Justice Patterson. Viridor appear free to go ahead and build their industrial plant on a site in Beddington Farmlands, which has been designated as Metropolitan Open Land.
The judge’s ruling may yet create a dangerous precedent and allow industrial development on all Green Belt land across England and Wales.
Shasha Khan, who brought the claim, said, “I find the judgement wholly wrong but as Abraham Lincoln said, ‘corporations have been enthroned’, leaving people little chance to challenge what he described as the ‘Money Power’.
“I feel for all those people who were pinning their hopes on this High Court challenge. I am sincerely sorry this legal process thus far hasn’t worked in our favour.
“It is very hard for an ordinary person to fight two QCs, including the UK’s leading environmental QC David Elvin, plus a barrister, all instructed by two corporate law firms. It is an unequal playing field. I didn’t apply for legal aid, so all bills, including the capped costs of Sutton Council will have to be met by me. However, it is through the generosity of supporters that these bills are largely paid.
“Anyone thinking of rushing to buy shares in Pennon Group, Viridor’s parent company, should hold their horses, because despite the huge financial and emotional strain I am considering an appeal and I, and fellow campaigners, will not stop until every last option to stop this lung poisoning incinerator is exhausted.
“The judge’s decision doesn’t adequately explain why Sutton Council were able to ignore a policy which meant development on Beddington Farmlands was only allowed until 2023. Nor does it adequately consider the harm the incinerator will cause to the Wandle Valley Regional Park and London’s Green Network. These harms should have been considered by the council at the planning stage.
“Worryingly, the decision handed down by Mrs Justice Patterson allows building on Metropolitan Open Land which carries the same status as Green Belt and that can have an impact on people in other parts of the UK.”
Khan and his advisors have until Monday to lodge an appeal, although it seems likely that the costs will be prohibitive.
While the planning authority in the case is Sutton, the decision will not only affect the quality of the air that residents breath in Croydon, it is also likely to impact the borough’s finances.
Croydon is one of four south London boroughs signed up to the South London Waste Partnership, the others being LibDem-run Sutton, Tory controlled Kingston and Labour-held Merton.
In 2010, Tories in Croydon campaigned against allowing any incinerator to be built “in or on the borders” of the borough. Once elected, the Mike Fisher-led Conservative group signed up to the SLWP incinerator deal with Viridor, worth almost £1 billion over 25 years.
Throughout the past five years, the Labour group in Croydon has campaigned long and hard against having anything to do with the incinerator scheme.
Yet although elected to the Town Hall on a seemingly anti-incinerator ticket last May, the group leader Tony Newman no longer refers to an incinerator; instead, Newman now uses Viridor’s weasel words, talking in the council chamber about an “energy from waste facility”. He has even chuckled as he has done so, hopefully out of deep shame and embarrassment.
Newman’s deputy is Stuart Collins, who represents Broad Green, a ward which borders the Beddington area where the multi-million-pound Viridor incinerator is to be built. Because of the prevailing winds, residents in Collins’s Broad Green ward are among those most likely to be blighted by the fumes from the Viridor smoke stacks.
Since May, Collins has been given cabinet responsibility for “Clean Green Croydon”. And slogans. He has strenuously denied that the sloganeering and T-shirts are just a cheap publicity gimmick. Now representing Croydon Council on the board of the SLWP, Collins has been notably quiet on the incinerator issue of late.
At the time of publishing, there had been no reaction to the judgement from Viridor nor Sutton Council, although our neighbouring borough did have a news story on its official website encouraging residents to recycle more. Seriously.
- Parties’ policies on incinerator suggest we’ll burn
- Environment Agency has failed London on incinerator permit
- Incinerator represents complete betrayal by Tory council
- Flawed inspection regime highlights health risks of incinerators
Coming to Croydon
- Save St Helier film screening: Sell Off, Nov 7
- Park Hill School fireworks display, Nov 7
- Grange Park bulb-planting event, Nov 8
- Streatham-Croydon women’s rugby training, Frant Road, Nov 9
- Brook recording studio open day and party, Nov 9
- David Lean Cinema, Paths of Glory, Nov 11
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- David Lean Cinema, Ida, Nov 13
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Nov 14
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Wandle Park community garden work day, Nov 16
- Streatham-Croydon women’s rugby training, Frant Road, Nov 16
- Personal safety training for volunteers, Nov 17
- David Lean Cinema, Effie Gray, Nov 20
- Norwood Society Talk: Lambeth’s Archives, Nov 20
- Choose Your Own Documentary, Spread Eagle Theatre, Nov 21-22
- David Lean Cinema, Lilting, Nov 22
- Streatham-Croydon women’s rugby training, Frant Road, Nov 23
- David Lean Cinema, Wakolda, Nov 27
- 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
- Coulsdon Yulefest, Dec 6-7
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Dec 7
- South Croydon business breakfast, Dec 13
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
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