Incinerating council wants to ban back garden bonfires

The Beddington incinerator under construction. Our council is committed to improving air quality, apparently

Croydon is a borough council where its officials think nothing of providing false and misleading reports to planning committees, claiming that there is no air pollution issues on the A23 Purley Way near the Fiveways Junction. This happened when the council determined to push through the building of a primary school just yards from one of the most polluted roads in London.

Croydon is a borough council which will shortly be spending £10million of public money per year to pay for a massive waste incinerator to operate on its borders, pumping out pollutants into the atmosphere for the next quarter-century.

And Croydon is a borough council which has fully subscribed to the £1.4billion Hammersfield supermall development in the town centre, which includes 3,100 car parking spaces which will encourage thousands of additional journeys by motor vehicles every day, in an area where the air quality has for years has been breaking EU legal limits.

And now, that very same borough council is running a little public consultation. On the borough’s air quality.

You’d be forgiven for not knowing anything about it.

The council’s press office (annual budget: £500,000-plus), based in its bunker in Fisher’s Folly, has yet to issue any press release about the consultation.

But according to the air quality survey, which was launched last week and is due to run until August 21, the council which denies that there’s an air quality crisis on its major highways, which spends millions on a potentially polluting incinerator, and which is encouraging cars to be driven into the town centre on our already clogged roads, “is committed to improving air quality within its borough”.

Yeah, we didn’t believe them, either.

One of the borough’s air pollution monitors. Is the council prepared to take real action to reduce pollution?

The air quality survey is seeking public responses to some minor, nibbling-round-the-edges schemes which the council will undoubtedly impose on the borough’s residents from next year, regardless of which political party wins the Town Hall elections (because it is what the council’s paid employees have determined that they will do). And now they’ll be able to say that they “consulted” with residents.

But buried in the middle of this, perhaps deliberately so that bored respondents end up ticking the “agree” option without actually considering the question, is one measure to extend a ban on back-garden bonfires.

The preamble to the survey says, “Croydon is committed to improving air quality within its borough and has produced a new plan that builds on existing successful actions and developed new actions to improve air quality. We are seeking views from people who live and work in Croydon to help shape our action plan.”

There follows a series of lame leading questions, few offering any real detail on what is being proposed. Most of the questions posed are pretty facile and would seem hard for most reasonable people to disagree with what is offered. They don’t quite go as far as “Do you Strongly Agree, Disagree or Don’t Know with the statement: ‘I would like the air that I breathe to be pollution-free’.” But they’re not far off.

Of course, there is no mention of the Beddington incinerator, nor of bans on cars being used to ferry children to and from their schools, nor of any efforts made to discourage people from using their cars to go on shopping trips to supermalls in the town centre.

The under-promoted council air quality survey is full of soft, patsy questions with which no reasonable person is likely to disagree

The bonfire issue appears to be an attempt to nudge more residents into using the (now paid-for) garden waste collection service, rather than allow them to simply the burn their waste in the back gardens of Purley, Coulsdon and Kenley.

“Smoke control zones are areas in which only certain types of fuel or exempt appliances can be used. In Croydon, only the northern half of the borough has been designated a smoke control zone. We are proposing to extend the zone to the whole of the borough in line with Croydon’s Air Quality Management Area,” the survey explains, before seeking the respondent’s answer to a leading question which states: “Bonfires create substantial amounts of smoke and other pollutants”. Not as much as a £1billion incinerator might do, but hey…

There’s a parenthetical reassurance which states, “There will be exemptions for cultural events”, so the council can’t be accused of “Banning Bonfire night”. So that’s alright then.

The council’s press office has not been entirely idle in the last few days, though. They’ve been busy promoting another of Councillor Mark Watson’s pet projects, and they have also issued another press release which refers to air pollution.

The council has run a poster competition among the borough’s schoolchildren “to raise awareness of air pollution”. Bless.

The winner is a 10-year-old Coulsdon primary pupil, Jada Kelly, who designed her poster after air quality lessons in school, which included using diffusion tubes to measure nitrogen dioxide levels in nearby roads and fields.

On receiving her award, Kelly said, “I think cars are the biggest problem with air pollution so I wanted people to think more about them.”

If a 10-year-old can recognise that, why can’t Croydon Council?

  • If you want to take part in the council consultation on air quality and offer them your thoughts on the matter, then click here.

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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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8 Responses to Incinerating council wants to ban back garden bonfires

  1. croydonres says:

    The words “Public Consultation by Croydon Council ” are now utterly devalued in Croydon.

    Agree with it or oppose it, the last major consultation in the South of the borough was about whether to introduce the same 20mph max speed limit to the “South” as applied for some years to the “North”. A massive number (no doubt Peter Morgan could update us) of many hundreds, or , maybe over a thousand residents in the South said “No thank you”. to the proposal. A handful supported it.

    Having consulted, and got a huge, very clear “against ” response, the Council disregarded the result, and pressed on regardless, on the grounds that the thousands of silent non-responders must have agreed with the proposed 25mph, and been “Supporters”.

    The reasons may be that some Labour councillors despise the voters in the suburban South of the borough, as most of the latter vote Tory, or, sadly, that the same councillors just consider the public an inconvenience, and barrier to them doing what a narrow Cabinet member elite want.

    The air pollution survey is a sick farce.

    Officers and councillors will fall back on the official Government line that the incinerator poses no risk to public heath, as the chimney will take all the pollution up into the sky, where it will be dissipated. Of course, everyone knows that much of the toxic exhaust plume will come back down to ground level, where it will combine with the heady mix of petrochemicals from the major roads, in the North of Croydon.

    Whilst I welcome education to make children realise the connection between their own health and that of the planet, both under attack from air pollution and global warming, it is deeply, cynically wrong, for the same council to fail to act when it comes to rejecting planning applications for the new Purley way primary school, and other smaller schemes which place kids near cars.

    Is that what you have to do, to be a Labour councillor on the Planning Committee nowadays? Do exactly as the Tories did when they were in.? Do they get dished out a glass “blind eye” to conveniently not see how some proposals are fundamentally flawed and should not be approved?

    Hasn’t someone got the courage to stand up, and do the right thing?. Councillors get paid a decent allowance to work on behalf of the residents of Croydon,.

    Seemingly, probably not. Take the money and run?

    Let’s have a meaningless Public Consultation instead, appoint well- meaning “pollution awareness champions”, and turn a blind eye to the incinerator, and its real effects on public health. Yes, that’s the way we do things now, in local government, Croydon style (and Sutton too).

    What’s next ?

    Anyone up for a new Urban motorway — an M23 extension ?
    Let those lorries bringing in Surrey’s toxic waste to get to the incinerator quicker, so they can get more loads to the burners every day. More profits for golf-club mates in the private sector. Yes!

  2. The air pollution surveys is simply a load of what the Spanish, ever poetic, would call Caca de Vaca….questions designed to make you feel good for having participated but serving absolutely no other purpose whatsoever. Its a real piece of PR smoke and mirror stuff, signifying nothing. Its best ignored.

  3. Nick Davies says:

    As I’ve said before, they can consult with the public, or they can consult to them. It’s invariably the latter. Skilled practitioners (ie not Croydon Council, who I’m sure set these things as a Year 10 civics project*) sneak in a couple of questions they know they’ll give way on to kid you it isn’t a sham exercise.

    *either that or they dream them up down the Wetherspoon’s on a slow Friday afternoon.

  4. Nick Mattey says:

    Croydon Council’s decision to consult its residents on air quality is breathtaking (pun intended) in its hypocrisy.

    It was only four years ago that concerned Labour politicians were telling voters in the local council election that once in power, they were going to cancel the Viridor incinerator, less than a mile from the Croydon border. As soon as they got into power they decided on the grounds of cost to renege on their promise.

    Instead the council are sitting idly by while Viridor will soon burn 300,000 tons of rubbish every year on your doorstep.

    The cruel irony is not only most of the vehicles that will transport the rubbish for its cremation will use Croydon’s roads, but that the fumes and pollutants will end up in Croydon’s northern wards where Croydon Labour gets its highest support. The heavy traffic flows on the A23 already mean parts of Croydon are already in breach of air pollution limits.

    A borough-wide crackdown on bonfires is a token gesture. Wood burning stoves, wood-fired pizza ovens and firms that heat buildings by burning biomass are a much greater source of pollution.

    It is about time Croydon Council persuaded its Sutton neighbours to install a real time air quality monitoring system around the incinerator before it starts burning rubbish in earnest.

  5. Just as there are many sources of dangerous air pollution, SO THERE ARE EVEN MORE WIDESPREAD EFFECTS OF IT ALL OVER THE BODY.
    THE VITAL THING TO UNDERSTAND is that a very large number of cells in different organs have the AHR receptor on their membranes.This is quite unusual. Air pollution affects many more things than the lungs, and this at small doses.
    Below is a reference from last year that goes into the detail.Most people will have heard of “agent orange” in Vietnam……this is the receptor that causes its dreadful effects.

  6. Lewis White says:

    It is truly sad that in around 30 years, people will have found out the harm to their own and their children’s health of the Incinerator. Asbestos was a wonder substance until its harmful true nature was revealed.

    The way in which the councils ganged together to pass the incinerator, with a sham consultation is woefully bad behaviour inflicted on the public of Beddington and N Croydon.

  7. Peter Bell says:

    What is truly sad is the inability within this forum of persons able to disseminate fact from fiction..
    1) peter morgan is not a reprsentative of his community and this has been proven time after time. At least he has had the balls to put himself with his views on the speed limit to the electorate several times and found very little support – if you want to know what “the people” feel about this issue go and canvas outside a school when the mums are out and about.
    2) the incinerator was a fait accompli before this admin took over (er…. read this site passim) one could argue that tony N jumped on the band wagon and made “promises” that were difficult to keep but read his small print, large chap, but not stupid at all.
    3) doubt if Sutton council would listen to this Croydon council no matter what they said
    4) I read the latest air pollution survey after they had resited the monitor, i.e. not under a bush not under a plastic bag not in pampisford road when supposed to be measuring 5ways, (which it felt was VERY different as now it could actually measure crappy air er…. being closer to the actual road and not choked. ) this may not be the most accurate way of telling us that we are poisoning ourselves and our children but it is better than what was available under the previous admin in Tory Towers (which I prefer to fishers folly, which one could argue is more descriptive, but less accurate)
    6) it is silly to compare car effluent to agent orange – get a grip.
    7) public consultation is what councils do – get used to it. If you want to change their mind (I hate to say it) but be like peter morgan and stand up for what you believe in. He may be a conniving idiot he may be a wool over your eyes idiot (with his many internet accounts and survey busting) but at least he is working on putting his points of view over within the system. If we all did that he would disappear into the undrgrowth.
    I just hope I am not the only one who reads my posts.

  8. ” it is silly to compare car effluent to agent orange – get a grip.”
    It is clear that you don’t understand the history of the research into the AHR recptor,let alone the biology of receptors and transmitters.Unfortunately we are surrounded by air filled with ring shaped hydrocarbons and it may have missed your attention but cancer INCIDENCE rates have increased from 1 in 3 to 1 in 2.

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