Councillors’ air pollution event fails to mention incinerator

Three Croydon councillors want to stage a talking shop about how to deal with air pollution – just days after the council-commissioned Beddington incinerator begins to pump out pollutants over south London. Our environment correspondent, PAUL LUSHION, reports

The Beddington incinerator fires up next month

In the same week that the Beddington Lane incinerator is due to fire up in earnest for the first time courtesy of Viridor, as commissioned by Croydon Council, some of our councillors are staging a free event to discuss how to… reduce air pollution.

The councillors describe the borough’s air pollution as a “public health crisis”.

Yet they fail to address the local authority’s own noxious contribution to that crisis.

Labour councillors Muhammad Ali, Jamie Audsley and cabinet member Stuart King will be staging their event, on October 20, at Whitehorse Manor School on Brigstock Road. Downwind of the Viridor incinerator on a bad day…

King is the council cabinet member who has introduced car-free zones around a handful of the borough’s primary schools, and who wants to roll out the policy elsewhere, provided the schools and parents request the vehicle exclusion areas.

He is the cabinet member for the environment in a borough where a primary school has been built, at great public expense, with hermetically sealed classrooms because the school is beside the smog-ridden Purley Way – all thanks to a council officer’s environmental report that suggested, seriously, that there was no issue with air pollution with a site beside the four-lane A23.

In announcing their meeting, the councillors say, “There’s been lots in the news about the damaging impact of air pollution on our communities and especially our children’s lives. But what’s really going on in Croydon? What are the facts? What are the sollutions? [sic] What role can poltiicans [sic] and residents play in tackling this public health crisis?”

Stuart King: good intentions

The councillors’ Eventbrite booking page for their good intentions event never once mentions the Beddington Lane incinerator, which Croydon residents are paying for.

The incinerator, operated by Viridor, is due to begin full operation on October 16. It will be the start of at least 25 years of burning millions of tons of rubbish from four London boroughs, including Croydon, much of it trucked in from across south-east England (with all the associated vehicle emissions from thousandsof HGV journeys, too).

According to official figures, the Viridor incinerator at Beddington will push out into the local atmosphere 440 tonnes per year of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and 3,300 tonnes of nitrous oxide emissions.

The shocking findings of research published this month has found particulate pollution in the pacentas of pregnant mothers who live in areas affected by incinerators.

And other surveys show that waste incinerators regularly operate in breach of the air quality legal limits, with the government’s toothless watchdog, the Environment Agency, standing by and taking little or no action. Incinerator operators, such as Viridor, are allowed to conduct their own monitoring of their plants’ emissions.

Croydon has all this to come.

The councillors’ meeting is expected to focus on vehicle exhausts

Meanwhile, the air that we breathe is already badly polluted, to the extent it may be damaging to people’s health, just through vehicle emissions.

As Inside Croydon, with research conducted with Friends of the Earth, demonstrated two years ago, the levels of air pollution in central Croydon are double the legal limits.

At one school, for four- to 11-year-olds which opened just this month on a site next to the Croydon Flyover, the council has contingency plans which include teaching staff keeping children inside the building on days of particularly bad air quality.

The councillors ask residents to come along to their event to ” shape the way forward for tackling air pollution in Croydon”.

And they add, “If you think you have a particular view that needs to be shared at the event, please let know so we can ensure it is built in.”

“Built in”. Like the incinerator.

To book a place for the event, 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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6 Responses to Councillors’ air pollution event fails to mention incinerator

  1. The pass was sold on the incinerator by the previous Tory administration who approved it (along with LibDem, Tory and Labour administrations in Sutton, Kingston and Merton respectively).

    Furthermore companies like Viridor, Veolia, Westfield and organisations like the Whitgift Foundation have more power in Croydon than our elected Council. We need to recognise that fact and work to change it.

    • All true, David. As was a promise in 2014 by Labour to review the borough’s part in the incinerator agreement.

      Can you answer how Labour councillors can possibly organise an event about air pollution in Croydon which ignores the incinerator elephant in the room?

      • The problem is precisely that the elephant is in the room…and there’s no easy way of getting it out. I am not involved with the organisation of the meeting but I understand anyone is free to come and discuss the incinerator and possible ways of minimising the environmental problems caused by it. However it has been built. Is there any viable alternative to accepting that?

        • The alternative for a local authority in Norfolk, when they took power over their council, was to cancel the incinerator. That was the option which Croydon Labour had in 2014, and which instead of representing the interests of the people, they bowed down to the strictures of the council officials and did nothing.

  2. Nick Mattey says:

    Croydon Labour who promised to stop the incinerator if elected in 2014 and then once in power did nothing, feel that air pollution is understandably worrying a lot of people.

    Tony Newman gave two interviews to Inside Croydon stating that he was going to stop the incinerator.

    Parallels with Nick Clegg’s promises over tuition fees are fully justified.

    The Croydon Labour think tank have decided that ignoring the incinerator completely is the best policy when it comes to air pollution. They have followed the lead set by Sutton LibDems, who are forbidden to discuss incinerators or even air quality.

    Labour’s problems in convincing the public that they are serious over air pollution are likely to get worse in the 2020 London Mayoral elections.

    Mayor Khan will be using his stance on air pollution as one of the main planks of his re-election campaign. Labour in London who generally support incinerators are going to find it difficult for people to take them seriously over air quality.

    Croydon Council will be burning around 90,000 tonnes of waste in the Beddington Incinerator. As the prevailing winds blow NE the majority of the toxic emissions will end up in Labour wards in Croydon .

  3. I think if the right people were to make it along to this meeting such as Councillor Nick Mattey or the Green Party’s Shasha Khan, this could turn into quite a lively discussion – unless of course this is planned as a PR event, where the organisers refuse entry to any known critics of the incinerator, and work hard to suppress any mention of the incinerator on the day.

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