Labour’s Newman waves white flag over Viridor incinerator

Just six months in to their new administration, and the Town Hall’s Labour leadership has confirmed that its “ambitious” promise “to make Croydon the cleanest and greenest borough in London” is in shreds, as they have abandoned all opposition to the Beddington Lane incinerator without so much as a whimper.

Tony Newman: another election promise abandoned, this time over opposition to the Beddington incinerator

Waving the white flag: Labour leader Tony Newman has abandoned his election promise to oppose the Beddington incinerator

Council leader Tony Newman ran up the white flag in the Town Hall chamber on Wednesday night. Without much prompting, he said, “Notwithstanding the current legal situation with it,” referring to the on-going appeal over the Judicial Review against the incinerator taken to the High Court by local Green activists, “it’s clear we’ve been left with a situation where it would cost not an insignificant sum of money to get out of a contract.”

The contract is that between the South London Waste Partnership, or SLWP, made up of Croydon and three other boroughs, and Viridor, for them to build and operate an industrial plant to burn waste.

Newman and his fellow Labour cabinet members have so far refused to reveal what penalty clauses, if any, may exist in the contract were Croydon to withdraw.

“From discussions that I’ve had with, among others, the leader of Sutton Council, it is quite clear to me that whatever Croydon Council’s position is, we should remind ourselves that this [the incinerator] is not in fact in Croydon, it’s under the planning authority of Sutton, and that whatever position we take, the incinerator will be built,” Newman said.

“We could make a gesture, if you like, and pull out of the South West London Waste Partnership [sic], but then we could then find ourselves in the absurd situation of having to pay more money to use the thing if it’s built anyway.” Part of the opposition to building a waste incinerator is that there is already an over-capacity of incinerators in south-east England, and that with ever-improving recycling rates, there will be even less need for Croydon to use any new facility. It seems odd that Newman has forgotten this.

Viridor cartoon by Gordon RossBut this is all further evidence, if any were needed, that Newman and his Labour cabinet have “gone native” since taking office, and are now implementing exactly the same policies which were originally formulated under the previous, Conservative administration, largely by council executives such as Nathan Elvery, now the council chief executive.

As recently as April, Newman and his cabinet colleagues, including head of T-shirts Stuart Collins, had proudly launched a manifesto which said, “Croydon’s Conservative council has ignored the views of local people … by supporting an incinerator at Beddington Lane. Labour has always opposed this; a truly green council would never support the building of an incinerator that will be a potential health risk on its border, particularly one so close to residential areas.”

Collins, a councillor for Broad Green, one of the wards closest to the proposed site of the incinerator, had until the local elections been a regular attendee at anti-incinerator demonstrations organised by the Stop the Incinerator Campaign. Now, Councillor Collins sits on the board of the SLWP.

According to Newman, Croydon is better off inside the incinerator tent, pissing out, than outside, pissing in. “I think the judgement we have to make is how we get ourselves in a position where we can be in the room and negotiating. If – and it’s still an ‘if’ I’d suggest – the incinerator is built, we need to be in the room negotiating for the people of Croydon and not having other London boroughs telling us what they are and aren’t doing. But there’s a way to go on that one yet, I’d suggest.”

Although the incinerator at Beddington Farmlands will be built in Sutton, the prevailing winds mean that most of the time the plant’s potentially toxic exhaust will be carried over large areas of north Croydon, blighting the homes, schools and hospitals – and perhaps even shopping malls – in the area.

Croydon Labour deputy leader Stuart Collins at a Stop the Incinerator protest last year. Now he sits on the body commissioning the incinerator

Croydon Labour deputy leader Stuart Collins,centre, without hat, at a Stop the Incinerator protest last year. Now he sits on the body commissioning the incinerator

The Viridor contract with the SLWP – comprising Kingston, Sutton and Merton, all happily for them upwind of the incinerator – is worth £1billion over a 25-year term. That suggests that each borough – Croydon included – will be paying Viridor £250 million. That works out at a cool £10 million per year for the term of the deal. That sounds like what Tony Newman might circumlocute as “not an insignificant sum of money”.

Yet missing from the council’s new budget is any mention of the financial impact of the Beddington incinerator.

Newman’s suggestion that it would be too expensive for Croydon to quit the Viridor deal is contradicted by the Labour council’s first budget, which shows that they have been prepared to buy their way out of some of the most unattractive parts of its financial arrangements with Laings for Fisher’s Folly, the new council offices built by the Tories.

Newman’s council has found more than £20 million to get out of one tranche of expensive debt due to be paid to their private equity partner and co-developer. Could any incinerator penalty clauses be as costly?

Of course, Labour are not the first political group in Croydon to break election promises over the incinerator. The Tories did much the same in 2010, when they promised to oppose the building of any incinerator “in or on the borders of Croydon”. Mere months later, Croydon’s Tory councillors all voted to sign the SLWP contract with Viridor.

Hypocrite: Phil Thomas was the cabinet member in charge when the incinerator deal went throughroydon contract was awarded

Phil Thomas was the cabinet member in charge when the incinerator deal went through

So it was an instance of the greatest hypocrisy at the last full council meeting when Councillor Phil Thomas – who had supervised Croydon’s involvement in the incinerator deal when he was the Tory cabinet member responsible – had the ruddy-faced cheek to ask why the Labour council wasn’t delivering on its promise to campaign against the smoking euphemism that is the “Energy Recovery Facility”.

Newman ducked the question then, claiming that the Judicial Review case made the matter sub judice. Which it is not.

It is not clear whether Collins, Thomas’s Labour successor, has yet been allowed to see a full, unredacted version of the Viridor contract. Collins told Green campaigner Shasha Khan at the last council meeting that, “Access to the unredacted version of the contract between the Council and Viridor in respect of the proposed incinerator (Energy Recovery Facility – ERF) plant at Beddington Lane is restricted to certain officers and Members within the Council which includes officers from the Council’s Waste management services, legal and finance.”

On Wednesday, responding to a request from Andrew Pelling, Newman – with Elvery seated alongside him – readily gave an undertaking to provide the Waddon councillor with an unredacted version of the incinerator contract. Newman then added, “subject to advice from officers”; we can guess what that means.

It seems that whoever gets elected, it is the officials who run the council and think nothing of stopping councillors from accessing detailed documents which in many cases commit Council Tax-payers to bills worth hundreds of millions of pounds. Alternatively, we are lumbered with elected councillors without the gumption to stand up to the officials, so that a budget can be set to allow our council to cancel the Virdor contract and so protect the health of Croydon’s children and children’s children.

Coming to Croydon


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7 Responses to Labour’s Newman waves white flag over Viridor incinerator

  1. marzia27 says:

    It is a betrayal.

  2. Unusually I disagree with Inside Croydon on this issue. The incinerator has simply got too far down the line for the Labour Council to do much about it. It’s not realistic to expect the Council to fork out millions in penalties, but still have to pay for whatever alternative they opt for. This would be unrealistic at the best of times, but it’s particularly so at a time when all Councils are facing such severe Government cuts there’s a danger they won’t even be able to provide services they’re statutorily obliged to provide.

    Unless you take the line the Council should risk surcharge and disqualification (which happened to Ted Knight’s Lambeth in the 80s) the best the Council can do is to continue to oppose it, but accept that it has planning permission and will be built (unless it is stopped by Shasha Khan’s legal challenge or some other change of circumstances).

    I think, however, that Labour Leader Tony Newman should avoid language which implies that the incinerator has any merit, or that it’s only a matter for Sutton. He and his colleagues should continue to make the points they made in opposition, but accept that they can’t stop it, any more than they could stop the building of Bernard Weatherill House, which the Tories also pushed through in their time in office.

    • This is a failure by Croydon Labour on two counts: principles and politics.

      Labour’s principles on this had been consistent, until they assumed power. They opposed, rightly in our view, the use of waste incineration.

      That was expressed clearly enough in their election manifesto of just six months ago.

      So what has changed since then? Absolutely nothing.

      The abandonment of principle leads to the failure of the politics. Croydon can never be London’s greenest borough if it has a waste incinerator spewing toxins into the air on our boundary.

      If Newman & co were prepared to include an anti-incinerator promise in their manifesto in May to win some votes, then they ought to be prepared to stand up for such principles once in office.

      By failing to do so, they will lose respect and support, and the question of who’s really in charge at the council is raised again.

  3. I surrender all, I surrender all
    All to thee my Croydon people,
    I surrender all
    Tory Newman singing

  4. There’s been a lot of judgements coming down recently….perhaps people will forgive me quoting extensively from one in 2009,that may even seem irrelevant. What’s Corby got to do with Beddington?

    Through Corby drove convoys of ill-protected loads of contaminated mud from the demolition of the Corby Steel Works…a number of children were born with limb deformities (we know little of the other ill-health that would have resulted locally).Their parents took Corby Borough Council to court.

    THROUGH LOCAL ROADS will be coming convoys of lorries carrying loads of exceedingly toxic FLY ASH.How is the safety of these loads to be guaranteed?Will they have HAZMAT warnings on them.What will the accidental spillage procedures be?Who will be responsible for damages,in the legal sense?
    The illustrations,below, is of levels of metals due to be coming from the Beddington chimneys (Viridor’s numbers) and of nanoparticles in the lungs.

    There’s already been a judgement,based on experts opinions,of the inhalation route of toxins and their effects on pregnancy.

    This is some of what Justice AKENHEAD had to say

    “· Dr Flaks, correctly in my
    judgement, identified PAHs, dioxins and heavy metals as the likely teratogens.
    The former were present at the BSC site largely as a consequence of the coke
    making processes used on the site over many years whilst the latter were the by
    products of the iron and steel making process. Also, dioxins and furans (PCCDs
    and PCDDs) were produced in the electric arc furnace process as well as in the
    sintering process. Dioxins and furans accumulate in the body and are only very
    slowly eliminated.

    So far as dioxins are concerned, Dr Flaks commented,
    based on papers and research, that it should have been obvious that the BSC
    site would be contaminated with dioxins when it closed, it being inevitable
    that dioxins would have been produced during the steel works operation (in
    particular the sintering plant); dioxins were and are known to be extremely
    stable in the soil. Decommissioning should have taken this into account so that
    any patches of heavily contaminated soil could have been identified and
    disposed of by incineration. The toxic characteristics of dioxins had been
    widely published since the 1970s and the technology for analysis and disposal
    was readily available in the early 1980s when remediation work at Corby was
    proposed. The toxic characteristics of dioxins include damage to human health
    (and potential damage to the embryo). I accept this evidence; it is logical and
    backed up by numerous papers and research.

    Dr Flaks was of the view, which I accept, that embryos
    and foetuses are much more sensitive to toxic chemicals than adults. The dosage
    of a teratogen required to induce birth defects can be much lower than that
    which would be required to cause toxic effects in adults and, although its
    teratogenic effects may be the result of induction by high doses, they may also
    be induced by low level exposures.

    During the period from conception until implantation,
    insults to the embryo are likely to result either in its death and miscarriage
    or resorption, or in its intact survival. At this stage, the embryo is able to
    repair itself by multiplication of its undifferentiated cells. The embryonic
    period, from 18 to 54-60 days after conception, is the period when the organs
    are developing and is the period of maximum sensitivity to teratogenesis, since
    tissue damage becomes irreparable. The foetal phase, from the end of the
    embryonic stage to birth is the period when growth and maturation of previously
    formed organs takes place, and exposure to teratogens is likely to affect
    foetal growth, or the size or function of a specific organ, rather than to
    cause gross structural defects. Human teratogenicity is indicated by a
    recognizable pattern of anomalies, a statistically higher prevalence of a
    particular anomaly in patients exposed to an agent (which is an epidemiological
    facet), the presence of the agent during the stage of development of the
    affected organ, a lower incidence of the defect in the population prior to the
    introduction of the agent, and production of birth defects in experimental
    animals by the agent.

    To induce a teratogenic effect, teratogenic substances
    must be administered during organogenesis, the period of embryological
    differentiation. The critical period of organogenesis in humans is 20-55 days
    (or 35-70 days after the last menstrual period). The nature and incidence of
    effects are dependent on the particular developmental stage when exposure
    occurs. During embryonic differentiation or organogenesis, the embryo is highly
    susceptible to teratogenic insult. Following differentiation, the foetus
    becomes progressively less susceptible to teratogenic stimuli, although
    increasing the dosage may or extend the period of susceptibility.

    Most known teratogens have been identified through
    experimental animal studies. It is of course not ethical for any teratogenic
    tests to be done on pregnant mothers let alone on embryos and foetuses. A
    problem with this is that there is no exact or mathematical correlation between
    what will affect a mouse foetus and a human foetus. Only about 19 drugs or
    groups of drugs and three other chemicals (methyl mercury, toluene and
    polychlorinated biphenyls) have been established as teratogenic agents in
    humans (by clusters of abnormalities being observed by physicians) whereas
    about 1,500 teratogens have been identified in laboratory animals (mainly by
    laboratory testing).

    A teratogenic response depends upon the administration
    of a specific treatment of a particular dose to a genetically susceptible
    species when the embryos are in a susceptible stage of development.
    Susceptibility to teratogenesis by a particular chemical depends on differences
    between species and between strains within a species. Variables determining
    strain susceptibility include maternal parity and weight, foetal weight, number
    of young, size of the placenta, foetal and maternal production of hormones, and
    maternal utilization of vitamins and other essential nutrients. This is
    modified by environmental factors, such as diet, season and temperature.

    · Dr Flaks’ view, which I
    accept, is that the most likely teratogenic agents are Dioxins, PAHs and
    particular heavy metals, namely CHROMIUM, NICKEL and CADMIUM and respective
    compounds of these metals. It is at least theoretically possible that other
    agents might also be active. This does not exclude other agents that might have
    been present Dr Flaks could not identify what was likely to be the effective
    dosage of any one of these agents for human teratogenesis because the
    information does not exist. Further, the precise mechanism whereby any of these
    teratogens act is largely unknown. Toxicological coupled with epidemiological
    evidence can provide useful evidence as to the cause of birth defects.

    Air Pollution and Safety Risk Management

    Since the primary case made by the Claimants is that the
    birth defects were caused by the inhalation by the Claimants’ mothers during
    pregnancy of air borne contaminant bearing dusts, the evidence from the experts
    in the area of air pollution is important to determine how and in what
    circumstances dusts from the site could or would reach the mothers.

    · Dr Cox MBE, the expert in
    this field for the Claimants, secured his PhD in air pollution predictive
    modelling from Imperial College, London in 1975 and, as a chartered mechanical
    Consulting Engineer, has spent much of his professional career in risk analysis
    as well as risk management. He has had to address the dispersion and release of
    gases and the impact of biocidal products and for 10 years he served on the
    Health and Safety Executive’s Advisory Committee on Dangerous Substances. He
    “spotted” a serious error in published papers by Ove Arup and IEA
    upon which Ms Heasman and Dr Searle had relied relating to the distance which
    small particles (under 10 microns) may travel. This had not been picked up
    either by Ms Heasman and Dr Searl; Ms Heasman ultimately accepted the error. He
    gave his evidence in a relaxed and self deprecating way and did not seek ever
    to exaggerate his views.

    Before reviewing this area of the case, it is necessary
    to make findings at least broadly as to what levels of contaminated dust were
    likely to be present, where and in what quantities. In my judgement, there was
    a virtually constant generation of contaminated mud and dust from and including
    1985 onwards to at least June 1997. There was almost constant work over this
    period by CBC and its contractors, but, even when there were slacker periods,
    dust would still have been released from the CBC sites or some of them,
    particularly Deene Quarry. Substantial quantities of contaminated material were
    carried on and on to the public roads mostly with unsheeted lorries. The main
    roads on which they were carried were Gretton Road, Gretton Brook Road, Phoenix
    Parkway, Steel Road, Shelton Road, Geddington Road and Weldon Road. It is clear
    and I find that the sweeping of the roads was inadequate and often not done to
    all. Once deposited on the roads, the mud and dust would inevitably be spread
    even further around the roads and the town by other vehicles passing over it.
    There is every reason to conclude in addition that dust was generated in drying
    and drier weather off the sites during demolition, excavation, transporting,
    depositing and grading and levelling operations involving the substantial
    quantities of contaminated materials. In similar conditions, where slurries had
    been exposed to the air (as on Willowbrook North A) or spread and deposited on
    the surface (as when Toxic Ponds 3and 4 were deposited in the north-east corner
    of Deene Quarry) there would be contaminated dust generated from those sites.
    It would be facile to believe or expect as a matter of fact that at any one
    material time during this overall period there was only one precise point
    source of contaminated dust being generated.

    · As Dr Cox said, not only
    would vehicles carry material some distance, it would either come off because
    it was blown off the back or by way of being dropped off the wheels or
    undercarriage; if the material was wet, it could also spill over at the edges
    of the lorry. Any material dropped onto the ground including the roads or
    pavements could then be re-mobilised either by wind or by passing vehicles.

    One needs to bring
    together the findings overall, There was a statistically significant cluster of
    birth defects between 1989 and 1999. Toxicologically there were present on and
    from the CBC sites over the whole period from 1985 (and possibly before) until
    1997 the types of contaminants which could cause the birth defects complained
    of by the Claimants. There was an extended period between 1983 and August 1997
    in which CBC was extensively negligent in its control and management of the
    sites which they acquired from BSC and otherwise used. That negligence and, as
    from 1 April 1992, breach of statutory duty on the part of CBC permitted and
    led to the extensive dispersal of contaminated mud and dust over public areas
    of Corby and into and over private homes with the result that the contaminants
    could realistically have caused the types of birth defects of which complaint
    has been made by the Claimants (save in limited respects). It can not however
    be demonstrated that after August 1997 the birth defects in children conceived
    thereafter could be caused by any breaches of duty or public nuisance occurring
    before that time; there can have been no significant emissions of the relevant
    contaminants after that time which could have caused birth defects of the types
    with which this case is concerned. CBC is liable in public nuisance, negligence
    and breach of statutory duty, obviously subject to it being established in
    later proceedings by individual Claimants that their particular conditions were
    actually caused by the defaults identified in this judgement.”

    I must be frank.I have very little trust that either the councils (particularly Sutton) that make up the SWLP or Viridor will do the relevant monitoring with sufficient rigour and transparency.You would not believe how diluted the regimes have become,since the “cutting of red tape” in EU legislation.How will you know?

  5. joeycan says:

    Two of the problems with servicing a loan are the annual interest rate and the length of payment. There are times where common sense can dictate that it is better to accept a long-term loan at low annual interest and pay additional premiums than to accept a short-term major disruption to ones finances as a result of a lump-sum payment.

    This was an issue that faced the MoD when, nearly 20 years ago it was obliged by Government policy to re-locate most of its London-based staff to Bristol and discovered that the normal 30-year repayment regime would cause unacceptable in-year financial problems. This matter was solved by the Treasury agreeing, exceptionally, then, to extend the repayment period of the repayment to 50 years.

    Croydon Corporation faced a similar financial problem when Laings (part of the CCURV partnership) found in 2008 that the cost of borrowing the Capital to finance their share of the 50/50 partnership would seriously affect their investment in the £146M project to build B W H on Council-owned assets donated as the Council’s part of the 50/50 deal.

    Based, no doubt, on advice from the ‘usual suspects’ the Council took out a loan from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) because it was cheaper for Laings to use that source of income to finance their work than service a loan from the City. In due course BWH was built and occupied.

    Some six years down the line the situation is by no means clear, because the Council and CCURV are very shy about revealing the true conditions of what must been a financial bonanza for Laings. Nothing that I have seen, which, like most ratepayers is precious little, has revealed how much interest was levied on the loan, how long the repayment time of the loan from the PWLB to Croydon is for and, most importantly, how much have Laings repaid to the Council since 2008 as a result of the benificence shown to them.

    Moving forward again, and to the nub of this note, the present Administration,having hypocritically decided to support Viridor’s neo-fumarole on municipal open land, pray the pathetic excuse, in the words of Leader Tony Newman, that it would cost “not an insignificant sum to get out of the Contract”.

    That statement states the problem but not, apart from abject surrender, how to resolve it. It suggests that he has been told the cost of standing-up to a bully (Viridor), but not how best to deal with the Firm. His legal and financial advisers would appear not to have looked at the issue of a long-term loan from the PWLB to clear away any litigation problems immediately, while leaving a loan-repayment regime in place that, even in these difficult financial times would (could!) allow most council aspirations to continue. My second paragraph above cites the basis of an option which the so-called “confidentiality agreement” cannot frustrate until costs are directly related to the formal agreement underpinning the Viridor/Council agreement.

    In other words all the four Councils in the SLWP could approach the PWLB to establish how much a loan, as described above could be serviced. They could then report back to their residents with the financial options.

    Given that there are other, more environmentally friendly, waste-disposal schemes out there (one of which was shown to the Croydon Central MP a while ago at a presentation in Surrey Street) the Council’s proper response to any financial penalty for abandoning Viridor’s proposal should, with the newly- generated moral Conservative support be, “we have only just begun to fight” .

    ( I wonder who said that?)

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