There are other Sutton LibDem councillors who, like Nick Mattey, believe that there are serious flaws in the secretive £1 billion scheme to build an industrial incinerator at Beddington Lane, according to Tim Crowley, the leader of the opposition Conservative group on Sutton Council.
Mattey was suspended from the Liberal Democrat group on Sutton Council last month when he revealed that incinerator operators Viridor had made a “gift” of £275,000 to a Wallington church where the LibDems who control the local planning authority stage their party meetings, monthly surgeries and organise their canvassing for the area’s MP, Tom Brake.
Viridor has a 25-year contract to operate the waste incinerator at Beddington with the South London Waste Partnership, which comprises four south London boroughs, including Croydon. Mattey’s whistle-blowing has shown that in addition to the large Viridor plant, there could be another 11 industrial incinerators built in the Beddington Lane area, close to the borough boundary with Croydon.
Crowley now accuses Sutton council’s scheme with Viridor for “energy recovery” from the incinerator – selling the heat generated to a nearby housing development – as “not stacking up”, saying that the LibDems have kept the business plan secret because it is “a poor deal for… residents, both financially and environmentally”.
Crowley said, “At both planning meetings at which the permission to build the incinerator was decided, the Conservatives on the committee voted against the scheme because they weren’t convinced by what they were told by the planning officers or the Environment Agency about the impact on pollution and air quality. A number of Liberal Democrats seemed to agree, but over two meetings the decision was forced through by the large Liberal Democrat majority.
“Sutton Council has set up a for-profit limited company (Opportunity Sutton Ltd) which will buy the waste heat from the Viridor incinerator and sell it to the Felnex housing development in Hackbridge. We scrutinised this business case and voted against, because the plan does not stack up. Councillor Mattey also voted against. But again, the large Liberal Democrat majority forced it through.
“Unfortunately, the details of this plan have been made confidential by the LibDem council, so we are not allowed to tell you how it will be financed, what return on investment is forecast, what risks are involved, or what assumptions are being made.
“You are not allowed to know.
“Nor are you allowed to know the figures showing what extra costs this plan is loading on to the houses in Felnex, and what price those residents are likely to pay for their energy. We can only tell you that the figures show that it’s a poor deal for those residents, both financially and environmentally.
“Although the Conservative Group in Sutton has seen the confidential SDEN plans, we aren’t allowed to see the confidential deals and discussions in the South London Waste Partnership (SLWP) over the incinerator. Our colleagues in other boroughs are involved in the SLWP, but they cannot tell us (or you) what they know. It is a criminal offence for councillors to release confidential information.
“This means the full picture is hidden – the incinerator plans, the waste contract, the deal between Opportunity Sutton and Viridor to buy the waste heat, and the arrangement with Felnex to sell the heat. Only Sutton LibDems have been in all these confidential discussions.
“This is why recent press reports of links between Sutton LibDems and Viridor at the highest level are so worrying – without democratic scrutiny of the process, we are forced to trust that Sutton LibDems are doing the right thing.
“They may well be, but the right thing for who?”
Slightly overlooked in the incinerator furore at last month’s Sutton Council meeting was that a predecessor of Crowley’s as leader of Sutton Tories, Graham Witham, jumped ship and resigned the Conservative whip. The Cheam councillor has now joined the LibDems.
Also at that council meeting, the ruling LibDems – presumably encouraged by the generous “gift” from their mates at Viridor – voted through a 2.5 per cent increase in their councillor allowances.
Trebles all round!
- Environment secretary Ed Davey helps Tom Brake dine out with Viridor
- Ex-LibDem councillor claims coercion over £1bn incinerator decision
- Tom Brake link to church donation from incinerator company
- The brave letter that got Sutton councillor suspended
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