Incinerator operators Viridor have outraged local conservationists with their latest publicity, which has been described as “misinformation” over the status of the habitat and the various wildlife species that live around Beddington Farmlands.
Viridor has a £1billion contract from the South London Waste Partnership, including Croydon, Sutton, Kingston and Merton. With the Beddington Lane incinerator, built at a cost of £200million, about to be fired up for “hot commissioning” tests before Christmas, Viridor has been undertaking a PR campaign, its leaflets being distributed to homes locally claiming that they are doing wonderful work for conservation.
But bird-watchers and conservationists claim that Viridor has failed to fulfil its various promises, made in conjunction with planning permission when it acquired the landfill site in Sutton, to improve and enhance the environment, and this has seen the number of breeding birds at Beddington plummet. A previously flourishing colony of tree sparrows at Beddington Farmlands is now almost extinct.
Peter Alfrey, who has been monitoring bird numbers in Beddington for many years, highlighted the Viridor leaflet’s use of barn owls.
“Interesting that they have chosen this species to promote their agenda after doing little to support the plight of these owls,” Alfrey writes.
“Last year the tree that the barn owls nested in was cut down, after they finished breeding – so that they could avoid prosecution under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
“The owls were breeding on land that is being eyed up for development and one of the most limiting factors for developers are protected Schedule 1 species, so presumably the tree was cut down for this reason.
“The owls then moved over to the Thames Water and Viridor part of the site and bird group members asked for permission to erect barn owls boxes to mitigate for the loss of their nesting tree.
“This permission was not forthcoming and despite being left with the site ecologist for more than 12 months, no action was taken.
“Out of desperation the owls bred on the floor of an old building. Barn owls generally nest in cavities or in the eaves of buildings to avoid predation.
“Against all odds they managed to raise one young – presumably the other young were lost to foxes or predators.
“Schedule 1 species are bad news for developers and Viridor have spent the last 15 years or so decimating the rare and important wildlife populations on site, which makes it easier to get planning permission to build things like incinerators.
“A new planning enforcement investigation is under way by Sutton Council, following a Local Government Ombudsman investigation that concluded in 2015 that conditions to protect wildlife should be enforced immediately and to stop the destruction.
“Since that investigation, conditions have still not been implemented and Viridor and other developers continue to destroy the site for wildlife. Tree sparrows, an iconic local bird and Schedule 1 species, was decimated from a population of nearly 1,000 in 2007 to only two wintering birds this year – almost certainly the end of this species now after clinging on for the last few years.
“The Beddington Farm Bird Group would also like to make it clear that even though mentioned in the circular, they do not endorse these circulars which contain misinformation.”
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