Barratts stall on Sutton’s incinerator heat network agreement

Have Sutton Council’s plans to burn hundreds of thousands of tons of rubbish in an industrial-scale incinerator hit a speed bump?

Viridor are working on a 25-year contract with four councils, worth £1 billion, which depends on the area re-cycling less, and burning it instead in an incinerator

Viridor’s £1bn Beddington Lane incinerator will see Sutton and Croydon  recycling less, and burning more

The LibDem-controlled local authority hoped to announce a commercial deal with Barratts homes to provide heating to the 725 houses to be built on the Felnex site at Hackbridge. Such an agreement will have provided some political justification for Sutton’s air-polluting incinerator, as it supposedly delivered “green energy”.

But Barratts are taking much longer than expected to buy-in to the deal being offered by Sutton Council and incinerator operators Viridor.

The delay comes after it became clear that if Barratts sign the agreement, they could be consigning those living in their new houses to decades of having to pay three times the market price for heating. And if potential house-buyers get wind of that – as well as the incinerator’s noxious fumes – it could drive down the prices of Barratts houses, and their profits.

The Viridor incinerator is being constructed on a site which borders Croydon, and is part of a £1 billion, 25-year deal with the South London Waste Partnership, made up of Sutton, Kingston, Merton and Croydon councils.

Someone at Viridor thought it was a good idea to disguise the waste incinerator as some sort of heat-generating plant, and devised a way to flog off energy generated from burning rubbish. SDEN, or the Sutton Decentralised Energy Network, was heralded asa truly ground-breaking initiative to use heat that would otherwise go to waste”.

But the economic arguments for the incinerator have been based on flogging over-priced energy to tens of thousands of unsuspecting home-owners across Sutton and Croydon. This would include expensive “retro-fitting” to existing properties. If Sutton are unable to agree a deal with Barratts for a few hundred new-build homes, where the heating pipes would be integrated at the start, the prospects of convincing other pontential clients would be much-diminished.

Sutton Council’s own admission that aspects of the scheme might yet be subject to a legal challenge in the High Court may have also given Barratts cause for a re-think.

Now, Inside Croydon has obtained an internal council memo, distributed on Friday from Mary Morrissey, Sutton’s grandiosely titled “strategic director of environment, housing and regeneration” (do they have a tactical director, too?).

“Negotiations with both Viridor and Barratts are continuing, but have yet to reach formal conclusion,” Morrissey wrote.

“Barratt’s [sic] focus over recent weeks has been on discussions with our planners as to matters pertaining to their overall development of the Felnex site, although communication on SDEN has continued. As you are aware, we are out to tender for the pipework construction and O&M contracts and have committed to both an internal and external independent review of the heat purchase price, selling price and construction costs, before determining whether to progress with the scheme.”

Sutton having an external review of its heating scam could cause serious problems for the project, because as Inside Croydon has demonstrated from the council’s own consultants’ reports, SDEN does not stand up to scrutiny. And Barratts’ planning permission for Felnex is soon up for review. Sutton cannot risk the developers walking away from such a major housing project.

Morrissey’s note continued: “As this is the case, legally binding contracts will not be put in place until this time. We are reviewing timescales for these elements of the project and will update the Shareholder Board at its next meeting.”

Or in plain English: the deal’s stalled.

Sutton Conservative councillor Neil Garratt: "

Sutton councillor Neil Garratt: “the delay may be a positive sign”

Neil Garratt, a Conservative councillor for Beddington South who sits on the Opportunity Sutton committee which oversees the council’s flailing attempts to be business-like, responded to Morrissey’s update on the delay over the Barratts agreement with cautious optimism.

“We studied the confidential business case and concluded that it’s a bad deal both for the customers stuck with expensive ‘green energy’, and for taxpayers, forced to underwrite the risk,” Garratt told Inside Croydon. “LibDems voted it through anyway; it seems more about politics than the environment.

“The LibDems claim it’s a good deal, but they refuse to let you see the numbers to make your own mind up.

“If this four-month delay is a sign that Barratts are forcing Sutton LibDems to face reality, it may be a positive sign.”

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
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1 Response to Barratts stall on Sutton’s incinerator heat network agreement

  1. There’s more than dodgy planning permission deals and green energy fig-leaf growing here. So the heat network story that Bad Boris needed to let this planning deal get through has hit the buffers. But there’s more !
    Plymouth’s residents got an early alarm call only a month or two into the full burning start-up of their incinerator:
    Then they got the “welcome news “of a new record, the highest levels of pollution in a residential district!:
    In Cardiff the citizens living near another Viridor plant have to put up with:
    ‘plasticky’ smells being reported in homes 2-3km away from the facility. They have been forced to install magnetic equipment after failing to remove metals from the ash, and have been ‘forced to stop’ the processing of ash, due to the uncontrolled spread of toxic dust and pollution from the ash.

    So, after planning shenanigans, odd financial prospectuses, road traffic increases, pollution level rises,Croydon and Beddington have to wake up to the long-term concentration on pollution numbers and ceaseless vigilance. Don’t expect the companies to anything but hide.

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