Planning permission for the Beddington Lane South London Incinerator has been granted following months of deliberation and protest.
After a vote on April 24 resulted in a tie, the incinerator was granted the go-ahead at a re-vote at the Sutton Civic Centre on Wednesday May 15.
The Sutton Council Development Control Committee went into the meeting with an agenda that stated “The balance is considered to be clearly in favour of the scheme,” but protesters still gathered outside the centre and stated their case at the meeting.
The incinerator is part of an initiative called the South London Waste Partnership run by four councils, Croydon, Kingston, Merton and Sutton to provide improved waste management services.
The current site is used for landfill for up to 63% of the participating borough’s waste. This operation is run by independent waste transformation company, Viridor, who will also manage the incinerator.
The cost of the new contract means a saving of approximately £197m over the 25 year contract period when compared to landfill options.
Councillor Derek Osbourne, Chair of the South London Waste Partnership Joint Waste Committee said: “I’m very proud of the deal we have achieved for local people. This facility is both kind to the environment and it avoids passing on large costs to the taxpayer. Viridor have listened to local people and offered something that makes sense for the entire area.”
The first vote meeting, April 24, met with considerable opposition to the project due to complaints on environmental and air quality grounds. However, last night, the council stated that the proposals had been independently scrutinised by the Environment Agency concluding that the proposals do not pose any material health risks.
For Croydon in particular, the forecast effects on air quality were found to be insignificant.
The Environment Agency further stated that: “the additional measures proposed go beyond those the applicants would need to apply if the plant were located elsewhere”.
The report stated that additional chemical treatments had been proposed by the applicant to reduce emissions of nitrogen dioxide to below the guideline levels.
He said that 29,000 doctors across Europe have signed a letter asking for more research to be done into the potential health risks. He added: “To us it seems quite reasonable. It’s not saying never build any more incinerators, it’s saying just to hold off until more research is done.”
Viridor have made a video and published a web-page setting out the advantages of their proposed “state-of-the-art Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) facility.”
It argues that what the campaigners describe as an incinerator would provide: “a safe and cost-effective alternative to landfill. It will also bring forward the completion and restoration of the existing landfill into green spaces and wildlife habitats.”
Protesters have also raised concern about the impact on local traffic as the area already has congestion problems.
However, the council argued highways advisers have confirmed that the proposals will generate less traffic than the current landfill site. Gordon Ross commented that protesters find this hard to believe as 75,000 tonnes of ash will need to be transported away from the site.
Concerns about the routes of commercial vehicles have been met with the proposal of lorry routing enforcement measures, but Gordon Ross is not confident that this will solve the problem of heavy goods vehicle traffic.
In an attempt to resolve issues between the applicants and community protesters, a community forum will be formed to discuss issues such as traffic and pollution.
However, Gordon Ross of “Stop the Incinerator” sees this as a PR stunt and alleged that Viridor had not responded to invitations to community forums in the past.
Despite being granted planning permission by Sutton Council, the application will still need to pass through The London Assembly.
As a large-scale proposal, it may be called for further consideration by the Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
The “Stop the Incinerator Campaign” see this as an opportunity to raise the issues again and they hope that the plans can be challenged against a number of points in the London Plan, National Plan and the Metropolitan Open Land guidelines.
They are also calling people in the community to write to the Mayor in the hope that if he receives a considerable number of objections he will take them into consideration.