Our Sutton reporter, BELLE MONT, on a multi-billion corporation which has started meddling in local politics, again
Viridor, as they prime themselves to fire up next year their vast incinerator at Beddington Lane, appear to be getting more concerned over the political fall-out, rather than the environmental fall-out from their chimneys, as a petition to the leader of Sutton Council demanding that she does her job has already attracted nearly 3,000 signatures.
The petition calls on Ruth Dombey, the Liberal Democrat leader of the council, to ensure that Viridor fulfils its contractual agreements to maintain and enhance the environment at Beddington Farmlands nature reserve, around the site of the incinerator.
It is two years since the Local Government Ombudsman ordered that Sutton Council should discharge its responsibilities and get Viridor to do what they agreed to do when they were handed the favourable terms to manage the landfill and adjoining areas.
The petitioners, led by local twitcher and environmentalist Peter Alfrey, say, “Beddington Farmlands nature reserve was once a jewel in London’s ecological crown. Its wildlife is now in shocking decline. The latest breeding birds survey shows eight species now extinct, failed or in drastic decline. The tree sparrow has collapsed from a thousand birds to a single breeding pair in just a decade.
“The reserve is now the site of a major new incinerator being developed by Viridor, who promised to restore the surrounding area and set targets for increasing key wildlife.
“A comprehensive management plan was drawn up to deliver an abundant nature reserve for local people. Planning permission for the incinerator was given by Sutton Council in 2013 conditional on this management plan being delivered.
“The incinerator is almost finished but the restoration plans have fallen way behind. Wildlife has collapsed and there is next to no public access to enjoy this vast area of open space at the heart of the Wandle Valley Regional Park.
“We call on Sutton Council to put an end to the delay. It is time to enforce the planning conditions and require Viridor to restore the site and deliver the nature reserve it promised.”
As elsewhere in London next May, Sutton faces council elections. The FibDems’ last bastion of power in south-west London, Dombey and chums’ iron-grip on power in Sutton has been failing of late.
The loss of the Sutton and Cheam parliamentary seat to the Tories has weakened their control. This has not been helped by the stench of corruption around the council – with a sometime FibDem councillor being convicted of fraud and theft from a council-funded charity – and the stench of rubbish following the disastrously handled handover of bin collections to Veolia. It all suggests that Ruth Dombey’s automatic return to power can no longer be taken for granted.
If there is a change of control at Sutton Council, that might see some of the structures set up to justify the financial argument for the incinerator subjected to far more critical scrutiny. And it could drag up – or is that Drage-up? – again questions about how Viridor was ever awarded the contract when a LibDem councillor influential in the decision failed to declare his family’s life-long and close personal relationship with the company’s senior executive.
The strong show of public support for the environmental petition has clearly caused concern for Viridor.
The incinerator operators’ expensively greased PR machine cranked into action this week, sending out emails to try to claim that they are doing what they ought to have completed years ago.
“You may have seen a recent petition regarding the Beddington Farmlands,” the company wrote. Viridor, they said, “…remains committed to restoring the Beddington Farmlands in accordance with the objectives of The Conservation Management Scheme and Restoration Management plan as well as operating a responsible and compliant landfill site.
“Viridor continues to work closely with the London Borough of Sutton planning department and the Environment Agency to ensure that the Beddington Farmlands remains compliant with its planning permission and environment permit.”
If not, you might want to add your name to the petition – Viridor have been handed a £1billion public financed contract, after all, by Croydon Council, as well as Sutton, Kingston and Merton, as part of the poor-value South London Waste Partnership. It’s in every Londoner’s interest that they fulfil all aspects of their side of this disastrous deal.
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