If Tom “Thanks very much for the £275,000 gift to a local church” Brake doesn’t manage to hang on to his Carshalton and Wallington parliamentary seat in the General Election on Thursday, then whoever replaces him as MP seems likely to demand that incinerator operators Viridor withdraw from their contract or “at least mothball” plans for Beddington Lane until growing concerns about the proposed plant are properly addressed.In an extraordinary outbreak of cross-party co-operation on the eve of the General Election, four of the parliamentary candidates for the nearby constituency – though notably not FibDem Brake, who was the deputy Leader of the House in the last ConDem Government – have written an open letter to Ian McAuley, the chief executive of Viridor, the company which is looking to coin-it with £1 billion from south London councils, including Croydon, through the building of the waste incinerator.
It means that Brake goes into the election on Thursday as the only candidate in favour of the controversial incinerator.
The letter was signed by the Tory blueblood, Matthew Maxwell Scott, Labour’s Siobhan Tate, as well as the Greens’ Ross Hemingway and UKIP’s Bill Main-Ian, plus Nicholas Mattey, the Sutton councillor who the LibDems who control that council suspended last month for doing the startling thing of speaking out on behalf of the residents he represents in his Beddington North ward.
The letter states:
The legal challenge to the SLWP [South London Waste Partnership] incinerator/ERF [Energy Recovery Facility; ha!] in Beddington Lane may have failed, but questions have emerged about the procurement process and the relationship between some councillors, the local MP at the time of procurement, and Viridor.
Public opposition to the plans is widespread and growing; Sutton’s ruling group have now suspended a councillor for publicly breaking ranks about the process. This week the local media has carried a story highly critical of the District Heating Scheme which has been a significant plank of the case to allow the ‘exceptional circumstances’ of building on Metropolitan Open Land: leaked documents claim that tenants on the new estate may be forced to pay artificially high prices for their energy. This will also reflect very badly on Viridor which is seen to be very keen to drive the facility forward.
This week Private Eye has published an article critical of Viridor and its links with Sutton Council, which has had wide circulation.
Criticism of links between Viridor and Sutton’s ruling LibDem group are not going away: they have already put Tom Brake on the back foot over his fundraising dinner attended by prominent Viridor executives, whilst it has now emerged that John Drage, chair of Sutton’s Liberal Democrats, failed to declare until as late as 2012 that he has been a long-term close friend of Colin Drummond, chief executive of Viridor at the time the contract was signed.
This connection has naturally fed suspicions about the abnormally large donation to Holy Trinity Church, Wallington, Drage’s church which erstwhile MP Tom Brake has also used as a canvassing HQ.
In view of all of these uncertainties, we the undersigned parliamentary candidates for Carshalton and Wallington where the plant is to be built call upon Viridor to withdraw from the contract to go ahead with the waste facility in Beddington Lane or at least to mothball the plans until such time as a satisfactory outcome to the various concerns linked to the procurement process has emerged; if not, it is very likely that the damage to the reputation of Viridor, and its parent company Pennon, a FTSE-250 listed company, will be considerable.
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