BELLE MONT reports on a lively planning meeting at Sutton Council on Wednesday, when a parliamentary candidate chose to remind the councillors of a decision they took four years ago which is likely to have environmental consequences for generations
Shasha Khan, the Green Party candidate in Carshalton and Wallington, found himself escorted off the premises from a Sutton Council planning meeting on Wednesday night – just because he wanted to make a gift of a piece of artwork to the committee.
This week marked four years since the infamous Sutton meeting which granted planning permission to Viridor to go ahead and build the industrial-scale waste incinerator on protected, Metropolitan Open Land at Beddington Lane, an area which was earmarked to make a country park.
That conduct of that council meeting was controversial, as Liberal Democrat councillors were whipped along party lines – something supposed to be forbidden under planning law – with one councillor even changing her vote to ensure that the incinerator went through.
The incinerator is at an advanced stage of construction, thanks to the support for the project from Sutton’s LibDems, including the MP Tom Brake, who heads his party’s environmental group and is a trustee of a local ecology charity. Before the planning vote, Viridor Environmental Credits, the charity arm of the incinerator operators, made a “gift” of £275,000 to a church in Brake’s constituency which is frequently used by the LibDems for their party events.
On Wednesday, Khan sought to present some LibDems on the planning committee with another gift, albeit a little less valuable.
Khan approached the committee chair, Samantha Bourne, with a framed drawing called “Sutton’s Hall of Shame”, by artist Justin Wyatt. Oddly, the LibDem councillor on this occasion refused to accept a gift.
The artwork carries the inscription: “This is to mark the fourth anniversary of the fateful moment when five residents of Sutton, elected as councillors to represent their area, turned their back on their friends and neighbours and approved a £1billion incinerator on a nature reserve in Beddington.”
It then names the councillors, some of whom are still on the planning committee, and who included Stephen Fenwick, who later admitted he had been coerced into changing his vote.
It was Khan who led the Stop the Incinerator Campaign’s High Court effort to block the incinerator.
“Even though a few of us have been fighting to stop the incinerator for nearly nine years, it is only now that large numbers of people are becoming acutely aware of what is going to be unleashed over communities in Sutton and Croydon,” Khan told Inside Croydon.
“When planning permission was passed in 2013, I hadn’t grasped just how close the incinerator was going to be to Beddington Lane, and couldn’t have imagined the sheer enormity of the plant. Now that construction is almost complete, the horror is all the more real.
“When all is said and done, five Sutton residents had it in their power to stop the incinerator but for one reason or another these LibDem councillors voted to grant permission.
“It is important to remember that the vote was initially tied which meant we all had to reconvene three weeks later. After permission was subsequently granted, I remember reporters were desperately trying to speak to councillors Monica Coleman and Margaret Court, the two abstainers, who changed their votes to for, especially after Councillor Fenwick later admitted he was ‘coerced’ into reversing his vote.
“We asked artist Justin Wyatt to draw a commemorative piece and he produced this quite brilliant drawing. I figured I would present a framed print to the chair, Councillor Samantha Bourne.”
And then this happened…
The Green Party may not win any seats in south London at the June 8 General Election, but they are campaigning in a more imaginative, and useful, manner than simply sticking leaflets through thousands of letter boxes, the majority of which are sure to go to landfill (only because the Beddington Lane incinerator isn’t burning yet).
The Greens’ Croydon North candidate, Peter Underwood, is working with Friends of the Earth to test the air quality in the area during the course of the election campaign.
They are using the same air quality testing technology used by Inside Croydon at the end of last year, when it was found that pollution levels in central Croydon were almost double the legal limit.
Around 10,000 people die every year in London due to our filthy air and studies have shown that our children’s lungs are being irreversibly damaged by the pollution they breathe in. Although Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has said he wants to tackle air pollution his plans only affect inner London. In Croydon, we are being left to choke.
“We’ve seen catastrophic failure on air pollution from a Government trying it’s best to shirk its responsibilities,” Underwood said this week.
“The Tory government had to be taken to court to force it to publish a plan to tackle filthy air and they then tried to sneak it out on the same day as the local election results were announced.
“It’s not surprising they are so ashamed of their plan – it’s an action plan without any action. They clearly think that real action on pollution wouldn’t go down well with their friends in the oil and motor industry. For them, keeping votes is more important than saving lives.
“We know the air we breathe in Croydon is very poor and it’s going to get even worse once the Beddington Incinerator starts up. I’ve been working with the Croydon Friends of the Earth group to find out how bad the problem is now before the incinerator starts. We have put up pollution monitoring tubes all over Croydon – in places like the shops in Crystal Palace, outside Stanley Halls, on residential roads in Thornton Heath, and near schools where our children spend their days.
“The monitoring tubes will stay up during May and we will get the results in the summer. I’ll use this evidence to push Croydon Council, the Mayor of London and national government to take real action for the sake of our health.”
From the archive:
- Tom Brake link to £275,000 church donation from incinerator company
- Secretive incinerator scheme is a bad deal, say Sutton Tories
- Sutton official tried to influence vote at incinerator meeting
- Infant death rates on the rise where incinerators operate
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