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.
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.
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.
- Click here for sight of the Viridor contract with Croydon Council
- “Cleaner, Greener Croydon”? Really? While paying to burn waste?
- You can donate to the campaign’s legal appeal 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
- Albert Einstein – Relativity Speaking, Spread Eagle, Nov 12-15
- Oval Tavern Folk Club, Nov 14
- South Croydon business breakfast, Nov 15
- Croydon Assembly, Ruskin House, Nov 15
- Wandle Park community garden work day, Nov 16
- Streatham-Croydon women’s rugby training, Frant Road, Nov 16
- NCT Croydon Christmas Fair, St Mark’s Purley, 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
- Friends of the Earth Green Beanfeast, Dec 15 (book by Dec 1)
- Norwood Society talk: Penge, the making of a suburb, Jan 15
- South Croydon business breakfast, Jan 24
- Norwood Society talk: Crystal Palace and Dulwich, Feb 19
- Norwood Society talk: Charlies Dickens in Norwood, Mar 19
- Norwood Society: Balloons and airships at Crystal Palace, Apr 16
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