Sutton Council, which has allowed planning permission for a massive waste incinerator to be built at Beddington, has received a £5,000 payment from an environment campaigner following a High Court challenge to the scheme last year.
And with the cheque, LibDem-controlled Sutton Council has received a challenge to use the money to establish robust and independent air quality monitoring in Beddington.
Shasha Khan made the payment to Sutton and the incinerator operators Viridor last month, after a belated demand for costs following an unsuccessful review of the decision by a judge had finished more than six months earlier.
In a move interpreted by many as particularly vindictive, Sutton and Viridor insisted on claiming the maximum amount of costs from Khan allowed under the Judicial Review arrangements.
Khan managed to raise the legal fees through public donations, including an appeal on Inside Croydon, and private loans.
But he is refusing to hand over a further £400 in interest, which is being claimed by the local authority and their incinerator partners. Khan makes the perfectly reasonable case that he should not have been accumulating interest on a debt if no one on the Sutton and Viridor legal team advised him of the claim as to costs.
Khan is a Green Party member and was their General Election candidate in Croydon North last year. Sutton, together with Croydon and two other London boroughs, is a member of the South London Waste Partnership which awarded a £1 billion contract to Viridor to burn waste at Beddington Lane for 25 years.
Investigations have shown that the SLWP committee which awarded the valuable public contract to Viridor included one Sutton councillor who is a lifelong friend of the incinerator operator’s chief executive, and that Viridor was making generous “gifts” to causes backed by Sutton’s ruling LibDems before planning permission was granted to the scheme in 2013. A police complaint has been filed over Sutton LibDems’ handling of the planning process.
In a letter to a Sutton council legal official last month, seen by Inside Croydon, to wrap-up the dispute over legal costs, Khan wrote: “I am prepared to make this payment, without prejudice, should any future legal challenge prove that the council, councillors or council officers acted illegally in the award of the waste contract to Viridor Limited and subsequently in the planning application approval.
“In particular, but not exclusively, I refer to the non-disclosure of the £275,000 donation from Viridor Credits to Holy Trinity Church, Wallington and the coercion of Councillor Stephen Fenwick in the days before the second hearing of the planning application. If any actions by the council, councillors or council officers or information withheld before the hearings would have affected the outcome of the Judicial Review or the Court of Appeal hearing, I reserve the right to reclaim your £5,000 costs plus my own costs.”
Khan has also tried to attach a condition to his payment of costs, one which could undermine the tens of thousands of pounds spent on PR sping by Viridor and their friends at Sutton Council in trying to convince anyone gullible enough that trucking in millions of tons of rubbish and burning it will not pollute the atmosphere.
In his letter advising of the costs payment, Khan wrote: “I ask that this £5,000 that I transfer to you be used by the Beddington Village Residents Association in concurrence with Sutton council to undertake independent air monitoring once the 300,000 tonnes Viridor waste incinerator is operational.”
There remains some scope for lingering dispute between Khan, Sutton and Viridor over the legal costs, however. About 400 quid’s worth. And enough that Khan is prepared to go to court again.
Khan is adamant that a £5,000 limit on costs at a Judicial Review is not subject to later additional charges, such as interest, especially since the council and Viridor’s legal teams delayed in advising him that they intended to claim costs.
“I am not prepared to pay the interest charge demanded,” Khan wrote. “When I entered into the legal process it was made absolutely clear to me that there was a cap of £5,000 that could be awarded against me for costs. Not £5,000 plus interest.
“It is not my fault that Sutton Council have chosen to delay requesting the costs for 12 months, undoubtedly in the knowledge that the sum due was earning interest at a rate much higher than could be achieved elsewhere in the market. I reserve the right to contest the demand for interest in the courts if the council insist on this payment.”
In the month since Khan made the payment, he has received an acknowledgement from Sutton Council’s legal official. But no substantive reply to his points.
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