Extinction Rebellion will be staging a protest on the Town Hall steps tonight, ahead of the latest meeting of the South London Waste Partnership.
The branches of Croydon and Sutton XR will want Stuart Collins, the deputy leader of Croydon Council who chairs the SLWP, to provide answers to how his local authority can possibly achieve its stated aim of being carbon neutral by 2030 when it will be paying £10million per year until 2045 to burn the borough’s rubbish at the Viridor-operated incinerator on Beddington Lane.
The SLWP is the less-than-transparent body formed by Sutton, Kingston, Merton and Croydon councils to negotiate their collective bins and recycling contracts with Veolia (and hasn’t that worked out soooo well?), and who signed up Viridor to a £1billion contract to burn waste for the next 25 years – even including radioactive waste.
“Clean Streets Stu”, as he likes to be known, appears to have gone native in the years since he and Labour took control of Croydon Town Hall, going from an arch-opponent of incineration when seeking office, to now arguing at the most recent council meeting that “it is the least-worst option”.
According to a copy of the contract between Croydon Council and Viridor, seen by Inside Croydon, there were clauses in the agreement which meant that Collins – and probably his counterparts in the other SLWP boroughs – had an 18-month window of opportunity to cancel the whole incinerator deal because the contractors failed to have the Beddington Lane plant fully operational by the end of the summer in 2017. But Collins opted to take no action to cancel the deal – which is likely to prove costly environmentally and financially for the south London boroughs for generations to come.
“Either Collins never bothered reading the contract, or the council officials who have spent their careers pushing through the Viridor deal have just blocked all opposition to this environmental disaster at every turn,” one activist told Inside Croydon today.
It has recently been revealed that Viridor had already taken charge of the plant when the large fire broke out on the site last July, a matter which remains under investigation by the Environment Agency, that most toothless of watchdogs.
There was no air quality monitoring done of the kind of highly toxic pollutants which were released into the atmosphere across south London, as old mattresses and other rubbish which were being sorted prior to disposal managed to blaze for eight hours, only the work of the Fire Brigade bringing the fire under control.
And since then, the multi-national company has shown a repeated reluctance to comply with even the simplest of conditions to monitor the pollution it generates: its monthly emissions data reports are often published late.
The report for December was only made available yesterday, on the eve of the SLWP meeting, and then only after some earnest badgering from Mark Gale, a Merton-based blogger.
Council officials – or Viridor apologists – had submitted a report to the SLWP meeting which stated, “Viridor continues to upload Emission Monitoring Reports…twice per month”, something which would have been demonstrably untrue had not the latest report appeared, as if by magic, yesterday.
The report shows that it was signed off on January 3, so Viridor had been withholding the information for a full month.
They no doubt had their reasons: it shows two breaches of carbon monoxide pollution limits during this monitoring period, bringing the total to three in the month of December. So much for the careful monitoring by the Environment Agency, in whom Collins expressed such faith at last week’s council meeting.
Given Collins’s new-found enthusiasm for incineration, the Extinction Rebellion activists have little confidence that the four boroughs’ elected councillors will do anything to put pressure on Viridor to stop them polluting south London.
And after the first flush of enthusiasm last summer for the climate emergency declared by Tony Newman (Collins’ colleague and leader of Croydon Council), there’s deepening scepticism that is all just, well… hot air and hypocrisy.
For while the insincere Newman spouts greenwash, Croydon Council continues to receive sponsorship cash from Gatwick Airport, with Newman banging on about the economic value to Croydon of a second international airport runway, and of the possibility that solar-powered planes will offer some kind of panacea.
And while cities such as York and Birmingham take the climate emergency seriously enough to look at making their town centre car-free zones, Newman and his numpties continue to discuss with Westfield their plans for rebuilding a massive shopping mall in the centre of Croydon and equipping it with thousands of car park spaces.
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