Beddington’s ‘dumping ground’ now facing its own Suez crisis

A planning application from a multi-billion French-based waste company to develop a “green” gas-generating plant on Beddington Lane has encountered “vehement opposition” from at least one Sutton councillor, who says that his residents’ corner of south London is being turned into “a dumping ground for everyone else’s filth and waste”.

Suez already has planning permission to develop the site at 79-85 Beddington Lane, just the other side of the Croydon borough boundary, for a “waste transfer and processing facility”: basically to process vast volumes of rubbish to turn it into fuel for the controversial incinerator nearby.

Suez now says that they want to use the site to develop an anaerobic digestion plant instead, processing 100,000 tonnes of food waste a year, using it to generate biogas. Suez says that their plant could provide gas to 8,200 homes, “while reducing CO2 emissions and improving the UK’s energy security by putting wasted food that has been thrown away to good use”.

But according to ward councillor Nick Mattey, Beddington “already handles 80per cent of the waste and faecal matter generated within a 10-mile radius”.

Mattey said today, “We have reached our limit, and further imposition of such facilities is unwelcome and designed to further marginalise our community.”

Mattey says that Suez’s proposed plant would be the 10th “Energy from Waste” facility built along Beddington Lane, a greater concentration of waste-treatment energy plants than anywhere in western Europe.

Experts working in the waste disposal business claim that anaerobic digestors are an improvement on just shovelling rubbish into an incinerator. As well as biomethane, the digestors also produce digestate which can be used as fertiliser.

Anyone smell gas?: this is the site, with the Viridor incinerator in the background, where Suez wants to use to turn rotting food into biogas

“There are lots of issues with badly run biogas plants,” said the source, “but not all of them produce odours.”

Mattey, who has been a long-term opponent of the Viridor-operated polluting waste incinerator on Beddington Lane, despairs that Sutton’s Liberal Democrat-run council will again decide to allow his ward to be used as a dumping ground for rubbish from across south London.

“Nobody would willingly choose to live near such a facility due to the overwhelming stench they produce and the negative impact they have on property values and people’s lives,” Mattey said.

“Waste companies that promote these digesters are only interested in maximising profits for shareholders. There is a total disregard for the negative effect on residents’ quality of life.”

Mattey describes as “fatuous and condescending” the Suez corporate position that having a waste digestor was in some way better than the company instead building a plant to produce fuel for the nearby Viridor incinerator. Mattey claims that market forces, which have seen the price paid for incinerator “fuel” fall dramatically, is the real reason driving Suez’s change of approach.

And Mattey says that the anaerobic digestion plant now proposed is only viable because of a “massive government subsidy” that will be handed to Suez’s French owners.

“I vehemently reject the argument that processing 100,000 tonnes of putrescent food in our already heavily polluted area will not have significant consequences,” said Mattey, who has been a councillor for Beddington North since 2014.

‘Vehement opposition’: councillor Nick Mattey

“We are already inundated with numerous unsightly and dirty industries, and adding another noxious facility is completely unacceptable.”

Suez’s project development manager, Tim Hughes, describes anaerobic digestion as “an excellent method of energy generation”.

He said, “Government policy changes around food waste collection and processing mean that London, just like the rest of the UK, is ultimately going to need a network of treatment facilities across the city to process its food waste.”

If Suez’s application is approved, construction would begin next year, with the plant expected to be operational by 2025-2026, creating “up to 21 permanent jobs”, according to the company.

Suez has begun a pre-application consultation, with the public invited to attend drop-in sessions at St Mary’s Church, on Church Road near Beddington Park, next Tuesday, July 18 between 1pm and 8pm, and Wednesday, July 19, from 10am to 4pm.

Read more: Viridor incinerator fined for multiple pollution permit breaches
Read more: ‘People will die’: Dombey accused of Viridor ‘Faustian pact’
Read more: Heat network’s plan depends on 75 homes that don’t exist
Read more: Viridor breaking rules over incinerator’s pollution reports

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6 Responses to Beddington’s ‘dumping ground’ now facing its own Suez crisis

  1. Lewis White says:

    Beddington has been Croydon’s and later, much of South West London’s dumping ground ever since the night soil men brought their carts full of Croydon’s poo out here in the 18th century, in the evening. Later, as far as I know, this rural area was the site for a sewage “farm” where a thin layer of poo was covered with 6″ of the marshland topsoil, allowing the bacteria and earthworms to break the faecal matter down into enriched soil.

    Actually this is a very sustainable system of sewage treatment–but only possible with reasonably small volumes.

    I think that cows happily grazed on the lush grass.

    Later on, maybe towards the cusp of the 19th and 20th Centuries, the sewage farm became a sewage treatment works, with the familiar tanks and circular filtration beds with the revolving arms.

    Meanwhile, waste from the area’s dustbins would have been dumped, here and at other locations, as landfill. In those days, and up to the 1960’s, people burned anything combustible on their open fires and boilers, so the result was lots of ash.

    Gravel pits were dug in the gravels of the Wandle floodplain, to satisfy the demand for concrete aggregates as London expanded, for the structural concrete for building blocks of offices and flats and foundations. Later on, some of these pits were infilled with landfill.

    Volumes of rubbish shot up in the packaging and plastic-addicted 70’s to our own times, although widespread recycling has since meant that some waste has been diverted from landfill–and from the recent incinerator, bult since the space for landfill at Beddington has more or less run out, and landfilling itself has stopped.

    The fact that Beddington has been the dumping ground of Croydon– and much of Sutton– for over 200 years does not mean that it has the capacity of a black hole.

    The rural area has been steadily buit on, with acres and acres of concrete and tarmac yards, for lorry parking, and huge sheds, varying from ASDA and Wickes, upwards to the giant warehouses and “logistic centres” of today. Plus, concrete and tarmac-mixing plants, and skip yards, where waste from skips is sorted and loaded onto bigger lorries, some of which are still going to other landfill in Surrey.

    Poor Beddington, once a quiet rural area of marshy pastures (a Roman Villa suggests that it was a favoured place in 500 A.D) – if we include the areas along the East of Beddington Lane a.k.a. the “Industrial area” – is now covered with about 20% warehouse buildings, 20% hardsurfaced yards, 25% sewage treatment works, and about 5 % as incinerator, leaving about 30% as the semi-restored landfill site, which includes water. Some of it , against massive odds, is still green and pleasant.

    It is about time that we started regarding Beddington as the equivalent of an abused woman. It is time to stop. It is about time that Sutton stopped dumping its ugly industry and miscellaneous nasties on the East side of the railway from Sutton to London (out of sight, out of mind), and that Croydon and Sutton had a joint strategy and masterplan to green up the industrial estates, and plant trees by the thousands, and get rid of unnecesary hard surfaces and dereliction.

    Wanted– a decent Planning system that is proactively green, not reactively grey.

    Wanted– Planning departments and councillors who value and want to restore at least some of the green and pleasant quality of this once loved rural landscape, and who are willing to use the planning process to stop the abuse of this long-despoiled area.

  2. Jim Duffy says:

    Thanks Lewis. An excellent history and analysis of the growth of polluting industries in Beddington. Completely agree with your summary: ‘Poor Beddington’ and a call for breaking up the acres of concrete and replacing it with thousands of trees. Visionary but simple idea.

  3. As Mattey says, the only reason why Suez wants to develop such industries is to run after subsidies. True in France or elsewhere. All the rest is marketed greenwashing. Digestates are not the soil fertilizers one wants to sell, AD is not the GHG saving promised, the whole for so few energy. For those that can read French, lots of facts about such industries there:

  4. chris myers says:

    Good piece. But how many of IC’s youthful, hip readers will know of the Suez Crisis? I fear few will even have heard of Sir Anthony Eden. Just in case you forgot, and this is relevant, he was the UK’s Prime Minister and a Conservative during the crisis caused by us, the French and Israelis invading Egypt to seize the Suez Canal.

  5. Reading this blog post on the “dumping ground” in Beddington and the proposed anaerobic digestion plant by Suez reminds me of a similar situation in my own neighborhood a few years back. We faced increased waste and pollution from a nearby waste processing facility, impacting our quality of life. I completely empathize with councillor Nick Mattey’s concerns about the negative effects on residents’ quality of life, and the valid point that these waste companies are focused on profits without considering the implications for local communities.

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