BELLE MONT, our Sutton reporter, on how the incinerator borough is struggling to portray itself as all clean and green
It was an announcement which would have further convinced Tom Lehrer that satire can no longer survive in the face of reality.
“We did it!” the person in charge of Sutton Council’s Twitter account wrote earlier this month. “Sutton is the second greenest borough in London with 50 per cent of all waste recycled.”
They further claimed that government figures published by the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affiars showed Sutton had the second biggest improvement in recycling rates in the country.
And this just a matter of days before one of the country’s biggest waste incinerators, on Beddington Lane on the borough boundary with Croydon, is expected to fire-up and go into full operational mode, burning 300,000 tons of rubbish every year, and generating greenhouse gas CO2 on an industrial scale.
Led by Ruth Dombey, the FibDems who run Sutton Council can not conceal their desperation to reposition themselves as the saviours, rather than the destroyers, of the planet.
But they have been tying themselves in knots in their efforts to disguise the harmful impact that their decision to allow their friends at Viridor to build a £210million incinerator on Metropolitan Open Land.
Three apparently green “initiatives” highlight their difficulties, and hypocrisy.
SDEN: The Sutton District Energy Network was set up so the council can sell the heat that they buy from Viridor’s incinerator to justify some of the carbon dioxide it emits.
Thing is, Sutton’s sums don’t add up. In a borough where social housing tenants are paying 3p per kilowatt hour for their heating, those unfortunate enough to live in homes that use SDEN – the Felnex estate near Hackbridge, built by Barratt’s – have to pay 14p per kWh.
Sutton Council reckon that if they can persuade enough developers to connect to its SDEN heat network, it will eventually save 5,000 tons of CO2 per year.
That 5,000 tons amounts to roughly 1.67 per cent of the CO2 emitted each year by the Beddington incinerator. So for many people, that’s hardly a price worth paying.
Those unfortunate enough to have their homes plugged into the incinerator-powered SDEN will discover that they can’t turn off the heating during the summer months, and so will be expected to pay the same amount for their heating every month, year-round, whether they need it or not. But let’s not sweat the detail, eh?
Sutton Council is now so sensitive about the success, or otherwise, of SDEN that they are refusing to disclose detailed information about the energy network, even to the point where they are refusing to comply with a direction from the Information Commissioner’s Office. What are they trying to hide?
Tree planting: Sutton’s former chair of the council environment committee, Jill Whitehead, once said that the way to deal with carbon dioxide emissions is to plant trees.
The Viridor incinerator will produce 300,000 tons of CO2 per year. How many trees will it take to absorb this amount of carbon dioxide? A study carried out by the Forestry Commission at Kielder Forest has calculated that the forest’s 150million trees lock up 82,000 tons of carbon annually.
Therefore, to absorb all the C02 from the Viridor incinerator would require planting…
500 million trees
This would mean a forest four times the size of Sutton.
When it isn’t hacking down trees in the middle of the bird-nesting season to make way for its SDEN pipe network, Sutton is planting about 2,000 trees per year.
So in a mere 75,000 years’ time, Sutton will have planted enough trees to deal with Viridor’s CO2 emissions. If there’s still a planet left in 75,000 years’ time.
Car parking zones: The latest brilliant wheeze from Ruth Dombey’s brains trust at Sutton Council has, like so many others, been bungled from Day One.
Sutton says that it is serious about reducing carbon dioxide emissions from cars. So it is planning to create Car Parking Zones throughout the borough where residents will be charged an annual fee for the privilege of parking outside their homes, the amount to be based on the how much CO2 their vehicle generates.
The council calculates that this new get-tough approach on CO2 is going to rake in around £14million over four years.
Cars which have the lowest amount of CO2 emissions per kilometre will pay considerably less per year than cars with higher CO2 emissions. What could possibly go wrong?
Many residents who already pay a hefty annual Council Tax saw through the local authority’s new policy and recognised it for what it is, a money-grabbing exercise dressed up as an environmentally inspired initiative.
The CO2 tax is not even that fair, or very effective. The council has drawn up a table of what they consider to be the most polluting vehicles, largely determined by the age of the car or the size of its gas-guzzling engine. But a car which does not move emits no CO2: Sutton Council’s calculations have failed to consider car usage in its CO2 tax scale.
So pensioners with older cars that they perhaps only use once or twice a week for short journeys to the shops or visiting relatives could face a bigger CO2 tax bill from Sutton Council than, say, a commercial salesman who drives tens of thousands of miles each year in a up-to-date hybrid vehicle.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has recognised that the pollutants released from the exhausts of diesel cars are responsible for the premature death of many Londoners. Many diesel engine cars produce only small amounts of CO2, but copious amounts of dangerous pollutants. Sutton’s CO2 tax fails to recognise that.
And all the time, once their incinerator fires up, Viridor will be producing 300,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions on behalf of Sutton, Croydon, Merton and Kingston councils, and won’t be paying a penny in CO2 tax.
Not for the first time, Sutton Council has managed to apply one standard for their mates at Viridor, and another one for the residents of the borough they are meant to serve.
Trebles all round!
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