Viridor are the operators of the Beddington Lane incinerator, which is due to fire up into operation next year as part of a £1billion deal with four south London councils, including Croydon, to burn rubbish on an industrial scale for the next quarter century.
Before they burned rubbish, Viridor had the contract to manage and improve the landfill site, which had become a haven for wildlife. A decade ago, there were grand plans, backed by the Mayor of London as well as the local councils, to improve the landfill tips as each became filled in, make improvements to the environment and eventually turn the whole area into a wildlife sanctuary and country park. Beddington Farmlands was supposed to become an urban nature reserve within the Wandle Valley Regional Park.
In the early years of the scheme, the Beddington Farmlands site showed some significant increases in the number of nesting birds in the area, which includes what used to be a sewage treatment works and is sited between Mitcham Common and Beddington Park, just to the west of the Croydon borough boundary.
Beddington became known for one of the best colonies of tree sparrows left in London, as the bird’s numbers declined rapidly elsewhere. Beddington was also an important area for nesting lapwing and redshanks.
But those earlier, encouraging signs have been reversed, as the promised landscaping and improvement works which Viridor was supposed to carry out have been forgotten, and bird numbers on the site have been in steep decline.
Sparrows are regarded as being close to extinct as a breeding species in the area now.
Since construction work began on the incinerator, Viridor has restricted access to the nature reserve more tightly, almost to the point of declaring the area a no-go zone for bird-watching, ramblers and the curious public. Sutton Council have assisted Viridor’s cause by sanctioning the demolition of two old railway bridges, which provided pedestrian access into the reserve.
Little seems to have been done to ensure that Viridor comply with the terms of their agreements when taking on the land. Through the complicated series of agreements entered into with Viridor for waste management services with the South London Waste Partnership, of which Croydon is a member, Council Tax-payers in the four member boroughs are paying the company for restoration and conservation work which has not been done.
The company does pay lip service to some of its duties, including staging occasional open days supposedly to showcase the restoration and incinerator.The dates and times of the next two “open days” (which amount to little more than a brief window of opportunity of a couple of hours) as September 15 (10am to noon) and September 22 (2pm to 4pm).
Members of the public are encouraged to attend. The site ecologist who is employed by Viridor will be there to answer questions about the restoration. Or lack of it.
And conservationists concerned about Viridor’s conduct on the site and the impact of the incinerator have compiled some facts and figures (see Table 1), and suggested a few questions:
- Why are tree sparrows nearly extinct from site despite being the iconic conservation flagship species for the site?
- Why have so many of the conservation target species become extinct or are nearly extinct from the site?
- When is the restoration going to be complete and why has it been so delayed with such catastrophic consequences on the local wildlife?
- When is the reserve going to be open to the public?
- Considering target species are the measurement of the success of a conservation management plan – why has the conservation management plan so clearly been a near complete failure?
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