There has been an extraordinary development in the saga of the Beddington Lane incinerator, with the Sutton Guardian newspaper reporting that the £1 billion local authority contract is under threat because developers Viridor want the incinerator to be bigger, busier, and therefore potentially even more polluting, than they have been given permission to build.
The revelatory discovery, contained in confidential papers which were published in error on the official website of Kingston Council, comes just hours before the South London Waste Partnership is due to hold a meeting at Croydon Town Hall this evening.
The South London Waste Partnership represents four boroughs: Croydon, Kingston, Merton and Sutton. Sutton is the planning authority for the Beddington Lane site, which is close to the borough boundary with Croydon. Because of prevailing weather conditions, most of the exhaust from any incinerator is expected to be blown across northern Croydon, while much of the fleet of HGVs which will be bringing the waste from across south-east England to fuel the incinerator is expected to drive through parts of Croydon.
A recent Inside Croydon poll showed that 84 per cent of our readers want Croydon Council to pull out of the incinerator agreement.
Viridor was granted planning permission last year for what the company and its supporters euphemistically call an “energy recovery facility” at the landfill and recycling site at Beddington. The SLWP had signed the contract before the planning permission was granted. Although the company did not voice publicly such reservations at the time of the planning application, “Viridor has been of the view that certain conditions of the approval could render it ‘unsatisfactory’ under the terms of the Project Agreement,” the official report states. In simple English, if Viridor don’t get their own way, they could throw their rattle out of the pram.
“I am surprised that the operator is trying it on when the sentiment in the local community is against an incinerator,” said Andrew Pelling, a Labour councillor elected in Croydon’s Waddon ward on an anti-incinerator platform.
The SLWP was formed to try to deal with the growing, and prohibitive, costs of dumping millions of tons of our domestic rubbish in land fill. When formed, Kingston and Sutton were under LibDem control, with Tory oppositions which were against the incinerator scheme; Croydon was under Tory control, with a Labour opposition which said it opposed the scheme; and Merton had a Labour council. Since last May, Croydon and Kingston councils have changed hands, with the Tories taking power in Kingston.
The Sutton Guardian‘s website reports today, “According to restricted documents released by mistake into the public domain, waste giant Viridor is unhappy with the permission it was given and wants a new permission to run a bigger, noisier site with longer opening hours.“If it fails it says it would be ‘not obliged to proceed to the construction of their proposed facility”.
The newspaper quotes from the official report that Viridor’s problems with the planning permission “… were chiefly around the opening hours, the noise restrictions and the costs of complying with the conditions imposed under the planning permission being in excess of the £1.4m, a figure stipulated in their contract with the Partnership.
“This does not mean that Viridor has at any time formed a view that the decision of the local planning authority was wrong, but Unsatisfactory Planning Permission would mean that under the terms of the project agreement with the Partnership they are not obliged to proceed to the construction of their proposed facility.”
The SLWP’s £1 billion, 25-year contract with Viridor is the biggest ever signed by the councils involved.
Last autumn, Viridor joined with Sutton Council in defending a High Court challenge to the scheme, brought by local activists and environmental campaigners led by the Green Party’s Shasha Khan.
“This revelation once again highlights how inappropriate Beddington Farmlands is for this incinerator,” Khan told Inside Croydon today. “Incredibly, Sutton Council has spent more than £70,000 of tax-payers’ money defending a planning application that the applicant doesn’t even want!”
The 133-page restricted report was online “for days”, the newspaper says, but has since been taken off-line.
The report includes this conclusion: “Should Viridor decide not to proceed to construction as a result of an unsatisfactory planning permission both the Partnership and Viridor will need to consider a Revised Project Plan under the mechanics set out under the Project Agreement.”
And any revised planning application, for a bigger, noisier and dirtier incinerator, may not meet with the approval of the current groups in charge of their councils, nor the SLWP. It was a close-run thing when Sutton granted planning permission last time. Another application by Viridor runs the risk of not being successful.
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