Judge rejects incinerator appeal as focus turns to Viridor ‘gift’

A High Court judge this morning dismissed the latest, and possibly last, appeal under a Judicial Review by the Stop the Incinerator Campaign against Sutton Council’s decision to grant planning permission for an industrial-scale waste incineration plant to be built on Metropolitan Open Land at Beddington Lane.

Liberal IncineratsThe far from unexpected decision resulted in familiar scenes of defiance on the courtroom steps, with Shasha Khan, the Green Party activist, pledging to continue to fight against the scheme, possibly taking the case to the Supreme Court.

Khan’s fight may now also turn its attention to the inner workings of Sutton’s ruling Liberal Democrats, who have been creating a stink of an altogether different kind in the past fortnight, as it emerged that Viridor, the incinerator contractors, had made a gift of £275,000 to a church often used for political meetings by the local LibDems, including Tom Brake, the MP for Carshalton and Wallington for the past 18 years.

Viridor are due to operate the incinerator on behalf of the South London Waste Partnership, made up of four south London boroughs, including Croydon. When the Town Hall was under Tory control, Croydon signed up to the 25-year, £1 billion waste-burning contract with Viridor. In opposition, Labour in Croydon opposed the incinerator.

Since winning the local elections in 2014, though, Labour has gone very quiet in its opposition to the scheme, possibly waiting, Micawber-like, for “something to turn up” in the courtroom. Effectively, waiting for someone else to do their dirty work over this dirty air business.

Micawber-like, Croydon Labour's leader Tony Newman had been hoping "something will turn up" over the Beddington incinerator

Micawber-like, Croydon Labour’s leader Tony Newman had been hoping “something will turn up” over the Beddington incinerator

Such inactivity follows Labour’s “ambition” in their manifesto to make Croydon the “cleanest and greenest borough in London”. They have so far failed to explain how they can reconcile this to being signed up to a contract for a waste incinerator to burn millions of tons of unsorted rubbish, right on the borough boundary, spouting potentially toxic particulates into the air for the next quarter-century.

The revelations about Viridor’s £275,000 “gift”, made by a Sutton council whistle-blower, however, have finally prompted Croydon Council into action. Nearly.

Inside Croydon has had sight of an email from Councillor Stuart Collins, Labour’s cabinet member responsible for the environment.

In response to a letter from the Stop the Incinerator Campaign, Collins wrote:

“Thanks for your email , apologies re not replying immediately I needed to discuss with the Council’s Legal team and Cllr Newman.

“The allegations re the planning process are indeed serious if true, therefore Tony Newman and I are writing to the Leader of Sutton Council asking that they carry out an independent investigation of those allegations.

“If they are proven to be true we will review our position after taking further legal advice re the the [sic] contract Croydon signed with the SLWP.

“Re pulling out now and the costs of breaking the contract the advice is that Viridor will go ahead with or without Croydon. From the financial side whether the cost were 10m or the estimated 60m-80m we simply have not got that money, indeed we are expected to have to make 90m in cuts.”

Collins’ email is instructive on two areas.

Councillor Stuart Collins: is he being bullied by council officials over the incinerator contract?

Councillor Stuart Collins: is he being bullied by council officials over the incinerator contract?

First, it confirms that Town Hall policy is being determined not by the elected councillors, but by the council officials, including the same Borough Solicitor who oversaw the decision to take Croydon Council into the SLWP in the first place and the signing of the contract with Viridor. Why did the Borough Solicitor, Julie Belvir, not ensure that there were adequate exit clauses for the borough, her employers, in the agreement?

It is not in the arse-covering interests of the highly paid council officials, such as chief executive Nathan Elvery and legal chief Belvir, to admit they got it so badly wrong and allow for those decisions to be reversed. Not for the first time, the best interests of the people of Croydon, and democracy, appear to be relegated in importance behind the careers of senior council employees.

Collins’s inexactitude over the amount Viridor might demand if Croydon was to exit the incinerator deal is also revealing. It indicates that he really has no clear idea. Others close to the discussions suggest that Collins has quoted other figures on other occasions. “He seems to be making it up as he goes along,” said a source.

But since Collins’s “advice” will be coming from the same chief executive and Borough Solicitor who signed us up for the deal in the first place, this suggests that Elvery and Belvir could be deliberately attempting to intimidate – or bully – Croydon’s elected politicians by scaring them with very large figures.

One fact that we do know is that, if Croydon goes through with the Viridor deal, it will cost the borough £10 million every year, for 25 years, as one-quarter of the operating fees.

That adds up to far more than the suggested penalty clauses, which in any case appear inflated or exaggerated: Viridor will be due very little compensation, since they have yet to put a spade in the ground to build the infernal incinerator. Any compensation which may be due will be for their imagined “loss of earnings”, which is always something which is legally contestable.

But that, it seems, is not the legal advice being provided to Collins, “Micawber” Newman and their elected colleagues. And Labour’s leadership is evidently lacking the wit, or balls, to question the guidance which is being foisted upon them by the very people who got Croydon into this situation in the first place.

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About insidecroydon

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 inside.croydon@btinternet.com
This entry was posted in Business, Croydon Council, Environment, Julie Belvir, Nathan Elvery, Nick Mattey, Planning, Refuse collection, Shasha Khan, Stuart Collins, Sutton Council, Tom Brake MP, Tony Newman, Waste incinerator and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Judge rejects incinerator appeal as focus turns to Viridor ‘gift’

  1. KristianCyc says:

    How on earth does the leader of Sutton council carry out an INDEPENDENT investigation into the donation? Surely this person is anything but independent of the lib dems, viridor and the incinerator scheme, being right at the heart of the matter?

  2. Pingback: Justice Sales in to the distance | STOP the South London Incinerator

  3. arnorab says:

    Yet another set of events which reinforce the view that both Croydon and Sutton Councils are, fundamentally, now being run as business ventures aimed at achieving profit, which may somehow trickle down the municipal leg and benefit the ordinary citizen, rather than to improve the quality of life of everyone living in the boroughs by direct, attributable actions.

  4. Long-term exposure to air pollution may harm your brain

    American Heart Association Rapid Access Journal Report

    American Heart Association


    So, we have a long-term,expensive,Alzheimer’s problem in this country…….well Viridor and blasted Boris aren’t going to help.The Supreme court has just ordered the next government to speed up clean air plans (some hopes)…we will be dirty,in London at least till 2030.
    Perhaps Viridor should be encouraged to jointly fund some specialist care for the elderly?

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