Sutton ‘steamy’ councillor wakes up to borough’s burning issue

Try not to choke as you gasp for air, but as PAUL LUSHION, our environment correspondent reports, big business is about to make even more millions at the expense of your health thanks to weak regulators and craven councils

Going for the burn: Viridor plan to make millions from burning waste from across south-east England

Having created an insatiable, fire-breathing monster, incinerator apologists in four south London boroughs – including Croydon – are now horrified to discover that they cannot rein it back.

Incinerator operators Viridor have submitted an application to increase the amount of rubbish they are allowed to burn at their plant on Beddington Lane, close to the Sutton-Croydon borough boundary.

This 10per cent increase is on top of the 15per cent increase they were allowed in 2021, and will see them burning 385,000 tonnes of waste every year, with all the toxic pollution that goes with it.

Such an increase could see more than 50 additional dust carts visiting the incinerator every day of the year, many of which will drive along the Purley Way and adjoining roads through Croydon, as Viridor offers its lucrative incineration services to local authorities across London and south-east England.

The increase in capacity is significantly up from the 276,000 tonnes per year which was granted in Viridor’s original operational licence from the South London Waste Partnership, whose four boroughs – Kingston, Merton, Sutton and Croydon – are each paying £10million per year to burn their residents’ rubbish and to pollute the air that their residents breathe.

Useless: Manuel Abellan claimed that the smoke coming from the incinerator chimneys was steam

Incinerator apologist Manuel “Steamy” Abellan, a Sutton councillor who has never shirked an opportunity to be photographed astride a bicycle in an effort demonstrate his environmental credentials, yesterday issued a lengthy statement in which he said he is “very disappointed” to discover that incinerator operators Viridor now want to burn even more rubbish at their incinerator.

This is the same Beddington incinerator where Abellan’s LibDem colleagues fixed the planning process so that they might grant it permission, after one of his party’s most senior figures in Sutton helped to secure Viridor the £1billion contract while forgetting to mention that his lifelong mate just happened to be the company’s chairman.

Abellan is notorious in Sutton as the elected councillor and deputy leader of the council who claimed that the smoke rising from the incinerator’s twin chimneys is just steam… Someone must have voted for him, though few will admit to having done so.

In the last four years, mostly on Abellan’s watch as Sutton Council’s lead councillor for environment issues, the amount of that borough’s waste that is fed into the ravenous incinerator’s furnaces has gone from 5per cent per year (as Viridor first fired up the plant) to 54per cent.

Over the same period, Sutton’s waste recycling rates have dropped from 50per cent to 46per cent.

In Croydon, 63per cent of the borough’s waste was burned at Beddington in the latest year for which figures are available. Croydon’s waste recycling rate has plummeted to 35per cent, down from 48per cent in 2019.

Meanwhile, with this latest licence amendment application, Viridor want to see the amount of rubbish trucked into the Beddington incinerator plant increased by almost 40per cent, compared to their original licence.

Viridor’s application in December 2020 to increase the volume of rubbish that is burned there commercially was approved by the Environment Agency, with little opposition voiced from the client councils.

The EA is the same body that cravenly allows water companies to pour raw sewage and shit into the country’s rivers. The toothlesss watchdog is expected to approve the latest request to increase the Beddington incinerator’s capacity, too. The local councils, whose residents get to breathe in the toxic pollutants produced by the incinerator, have very little say in the matter.

The public outpouring of opposition from “Steamy” Abellan is suspected to be related to the fact that there are elections happening in May.

“I am very disappointed about this application,” Abellan said.

“This is too much and will increase the amount of traffic congestion and vehicle emissions in the area.

“On behalf of Sutton residents I will strongly oppose this application from Viridor. I will be contacting the Environment Agency who have the final say in the matter, to urge them to carry out a full public consultation before making any decisions about the application.”

Shasha Khan: always opposed the incinerator

Abellan admitted that the requested increase is all about Viridor increasing its profits from pollution. “The increase in vehicle movements and emissions in the Beddington area… is not in the best interest of Sutton residents,” Abellan said, about eight years too late.

Viridor was acquired in 2020 by American-based hedge fund KKR for £3.5billion. The increase in burning capacity at the Beddington plant looks like a concerted effort by the new owners to “sweat their assets”.

One well-placed source at Sutton Council has suggested that the local authority will get a payment from Viridor for every ton of rubbish burned at Beddington.

As one Sutton-based environmental campaigner told Inside Croydon today, “Bad luck for infants, young children, the elderly or those with a health or breathing condition.

“This increased burn will be life-shortening.”

And Green Party activist Shasha Khan, who nearly lost his family home after Sutton demanded its legal costs from him after he bravely used a Judicial Review to challenge their decision to build the incinerator, asked, “Would Sutton Council like to join the Stop The Incinerator campaign?”

Read more: Nearly two-thirds of Croydon waste is going to the incinerator
Read more: Heat network’s plan depends on 75 homes that don’t exist
Read more: Four London boroughs have no plans for waste reduction

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About insidecroydon

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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3 Responses to Sutton ‘steamy’ councillor wakes up to borough’s burning issue

  1. Peter Underwood says:

    I’ve been saying for ages that if the South London Waste Plan Councils are serious about cutting air pollution and tackling the Climate Emergency then they have to cut the amount of waste burnt in the incinerator.
    If the Councils don’t stop the contractor burning more, then this just shows that the all of their environment commitments have gone up in smoke.

  2. Hazel swain says:

    shrewd move by Sutton putting the incinerator where it is .. most of the pollution is over Croydon!. why wasnt it built on Oldfields Road ,.. right in the middle of Sutton Borough!!!!

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