Think those plumes of smoke coming out of the polluting Viridor incinerator at Beddington Lane are just from the burning of hundreds of thousands of tons of rubbish?
It’s not entirely the case. Some of the pollution comes from burning vast amounts of dirty diesel.
To get their furnaces up to the required temperature – about 850 degrees celsius – Viridor use industrial-scale quantities of diesel to get the fires going, as daily they produce huge volumes of climate crisis-causing greenhouse gasses.
And now Sutton Council is recommending the granting of planning permission to allow Viridor to build a second diesel storage tank next to the incinerator, so that they can hold more than 20,000 litres of industrial fuel on the site.
As was feared and predicted a decade ago when Sutton’s Liberal Democrats bent the planning laws to breaking point to grant Viridor permission to build the incinerator next to what is supposed to be a nature reserve, the very presence of the industrial plant they encouraged to be created is now being used to justify building even more polluting infrastructure.
According to the somewhat circular argument made by Sutton’s “strategic director of environment”, Spencer Palmer, in a report for a planning committee to be held on June 8, building a big storage tank for 11,000 litres of diesel won’t make any difference to the area, because Beddington is already blighted by the presence of the incinerator…
“The proposed development has been considered to be acceptable in principle as the use
would not impact adversely on the openness of the Metropolitan Open Land,” Palmer states in his recommendations to the committee.
“The proposal would not impact on the visual amenity of the site and is acceptable in
design terms nor would it result in undue harm to the amenity of neighbouring occupiers.”
In other words, Sutton’s incinerator-loving, polluting LibDems and their partners in the unaccountable civic quango of the South London Waste Partnership, including Croydon Council, have conspired to make Beddington Farmlands such an blighted area, you could build any old shit there now and it won’t “impact adversely”.
There’s more than a suspicion that Sutton are going out of their way to help their pollution partners Viridor with this latest application.
The council sent out a grand total of three… yes, three… consultation letters.
They also went to the trouble of posting a notice on the private road outside the Viridor plant.
As a result, the council received no objections.
When they sought comments internally, from the council’s officials, there was no response. You can almost see Sutton’s biodiversity team shrugging when they were asked about letting Viridor double its diesel storage capacity at the incinerator. “What’s the point?” they might have said.
Beddington is one of 11 incinerators operated in this country by American-owned Viridor.
Construction of the £210million plant sited close to the Sutton-Croydon borough boundary began in 2015, and after a series of development problems, it began full operation around the end of 2018. So it has been polluting the air that you and millions of south Londoners breathe for nearly five years.
The incinerator exists for profit-hungry Viridor to receive £1billion from a 25-year contract to burn the rubbish of four south London boroughs, the members of the SLWP: Kingston, Merton, Sutton and Croydon. Each council is paying Viridor at least £10million per year for the privilege of creating toxic air. Earlier this month, we reported the latest serious breach of Viridor’s licence, this time for acidic hydrogen chloride.
In all four boroughs, since the incinerator became fully operational, their waste recycling rates have fallen significantly. As Inside Croydon reported six months ago, according to official figures, almost two-thirds of Croydon’s rubbish is now used as incinerator fuel.
In Croydon, the incinerator scheme was first pushed by the local Conservatives, and later embraced by Labour once they took control of the Town Hall.
Planning permission was achieved, under Boris Johnson when he was Mayor of London, by claiming that the incinerator would produce “green energy”, providing power to a local heating network. Viridor and their mates in the local councils of Sutton and Croydon still persist with that myth to this day, referring to Beddington as an “ERF”: an Energy Recovery Facility. Had the incinerator not promised to provide this less-than-eco-friendly energy, it probably would never have been granted planning permission.
But four years after going operational, the Beddington incinerator has never been plugged into the expensively established pipes of the Sutton Decentralised Energy Network, SDEN.
Doubling down on the green energy myth, the Viridor corporate website today carries the claim “59,025 homes equivalent powered”. The Beddington incinerator has in fact provided power to zero homes, and there remains little prospect of it doing so any time in the near future.
Viridor now wants to increase the volume of rubbish that they burn at Beddington – where there’s muck, there’s brass for the industrial waste incinerators. It’s likely that this extra volume of rubbish will require extra diesel to help fuel up the furnaces.
Diesel is listed as a hazardous substance in the Dangerous Substances and Explosives Atmosphere Regulations. Right next to an incinerator with provision to burn radioactive waste when required…
As well as more air pollution from the plant itself, this latest increase in volumes burned will also means thousands more journeys by HGVs, to and from the plant, using the roads around Beddington Village, the Purley Way, Waddon and Broad Green.
Viridor’s licence variation has to go before the toothless watchdog that is the Environment Agency. The EA approved an increase in Viridor’s burning capacity only last year.
The worrying thing for the residents living in and around Beddington about Viridor’s application to build an extra diesel storage tank is that when Sutton Council consulted the Environment Agency, they raised no objections.
Nick Mattey is an independent councillor in Beddington, who has been waging a decade-long campaign against turning his corner of Sutton into an industrialised waste-handling complex.
Speaking to Inside Sutton about the diesel tank planning application, Mattey said, “I believe that the extra fuel tank’s principal function is to ensure that the greatly increased amount of waste Viridor now wants to burn each year means that extra diesel is needed to get the furnaces up to 850 celsius.
“Given that Sutton Council says it opposes increasing burning by Viridor, then why are the council’s planning officers recommending approval of this new facility?”
The Liberal Democrat leaders of Sutton Council have recently been congratulating themselves on some spurious calculation that the borough is moving towards being carbon-neutral.
Mattey says that this claim is just as much hot air as the idea that the incinerator is an “energy recovery facility”.
“So much for carbon-neutral Sutton,” he said. “Every time you burn 21,000 litres of diesel, you put 56 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.”
Read more: Mayor will have little say over borough’s rubbish contractors
Read more: ‘People will die’: Dombey accused of Viridor ‘Faustian pact’
Read more: Viridor incinerator given 20 warnings in just 15 months
Read more: Viridor breaking rules over incinerator’s pollution reports
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