No they can’t! Viridor needs to provide 100% safety guarantee

CROYDON COMMENTARY: For all the tens of thousands of pounds raised, and spent, by the Stop the Incinerator Campaign in taking its case to the High Court, the legal challenge has had to be based on planning issues. The issue of whether the Viridor incinerator is safe has not been challenged.

yes we khan franklin fontThe editor of Inside Croydon, STEVEN DOWNES, says it is time for our council to stop pretending it is “Clean and Green” and to start demanding guarantees on the proposed plant’s safety

This week, a local newspaper in Cheshire reported how two dozen workers at a waste incinerator plant have been hospitalised in the past six months, the most recent on October 30.

The £452 million “energy from waste” incinerator in Runcorn is currently being commissioned. It is being operated by Viridor, the very same company which wants to build on Metropolitan Open Land at Beddington Farmlands, just over the borough boundary from Croydon in Sutton, a project which is subject of an overly expensive legal appeal to a High Court judge.

The legal case, fronted by local Green Party activist Shasha Khan, has had to limit itself to challenge the legality, or otherwise, of Sutton Council’s planning process. Safety is not an issue in the court case. The Beddington Lane incinerator has the approval of the Environment Agency. Just like the one at Runcorn has.

As we reported nearly 18 months ago, as a protector of the public interest and public health, the Environment Agency has a pretty poor record. As Runcorn has demonstrated. Twice.

The news from Runcorn ought to be a wake-up call for the South London Waste Partnership, and Croydon Council as one of the four boroughs signed up with Viridor to build the incinerator at Beddington Lane. Because a real issue with the incinerator is its safety, in the short- and long-term.

Since March, because of spillages of toxic chemicals being used in the development, 23 workers at Viridor’s Runcorn incinerator have had to be rushed to hospital after two incidents, both involving hydrated lime.

In Cheshire, the local Labour MP, Derek Twigg, has demanded that the government quango, the Environment Agency, should close down the Runcorn incinerator until Viridor can provide a 100 per cent guarantee that the plant is safe.

Here, Steve Reed OBE, the MP for Croydon North who normally has plenty to say for himself on the Progress party’s website, has been near-mute on an issue which could affect the health and well-being of people living in the constituency he is supposed to represent for decades to come.

Challenged on Twitter last week by a resident, Reed displayed consummate skills in buck-passing: “Have opposed and still oppose,” he said of the incinerator. He might have added “and done nothing and still doing nothing”.

“It’s the courts that are letting it go ahead not Labour,” Reed said. Buck passed. Hands washed.

But why doesn’t Labour do something about it?

After all, as an MP, Reed is a law-maker. And now, of the four local authorities signed up to the South London Waste Partnership which is commissioning the Viridor incinerator, two  are Labour-controlled councils, including, since May, Croydon.

Residents in Waddon and Broad Green wards have for years been expressing their concerns over safety issues related to having an industrial plant to burn unsorted domestic and business waste built on their doorstep. They are worried about pollution from the extra traffic, pollution from the operating incinerator, and they are worried about the safety of generations of children to come.

This is the kind of industrial plant for burning rubbish that is coming to Beddington Lane - unless Croydon's Labour council and MP actually do something about it

This is the kind of industrial plant for burning rubbish that is coming to Beddington Lane – unless Croydon’s Labour council and MP actually do something about it

Two dozen workers in Runcorn being hospitalised from accidents with toxic chemicals while they are building a Viridor-operated incinerator underlines those concerns.

For five years, right up to when they were elected in May, Croydon Labour campaigned against the building of the Beddington Lane incinerator. Now that they are in power, in a position to do something about it… nothing.

Next week, there is a council scrutiny meeting at which the cabinet member responsible for the ironically titled brief of “Clean and Green Croydon”, Stuart Collins, will be questioned about the incinerator. He ought to be mindful that in Inside Croydon’s online poll – which we regard as reliable and unbiased as any consultation run by Croydon Council – more than 80 per cent of respondents want Croydon to pull out of the incinerator deal.


It is important here to remind ourselves that in the relationship between our councils and Viridor, we are the customers and Viridor is merely the service provider. It is not the other way round. The adage “the customer is always right” still applies.

The Labour MP in Runcorn, Derek Twigg, has asked Viridor for a 100 per cent guarantee that their incinerator can be run safely. He knows that that is something that they cannot provide.

It would be a start were Collins to insist that Viridor provides the residents of his own ward, Broad Green, and the rest of Croydon with a similar 100 per cent guarantee for the proposed Beddington Lane incinerator. Because if the contractors cannot do that, then they should lose our multi-million-pound custom.

Coming to Croydon

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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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1 Response to No they can’t! Viridor needs to provide 100% safety guarantee

  1. Our Labour councillors of Broadgreen promised before the election that they will stop this incinerator. I am sure they can stop this now that Labour is in power.

    I am still a bit confused as to why this administration can’t stop this. Surely the Conservative party chairman has successfully argued against the incinerator being built in Hatfield and stopped the whole project going ahead.

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