Councils chose Sutton/Croydon incinerator over using existing facility in Kent
Secret documents reveal plans to transport household waste outside of south London for disposal were rejected in favour of burning hundreds of thousands of tonnes of rubbish on your doorstep.
Confidential papers leaked to the Croydon Guardian reveal the South London Waste Partnership (SLWP), made up of Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Kingston councils, turned down an option for a waste disposal contract from Waste Recycling Group (WRG) that would have prevented a controversial £200m incinerator being built on Beddington Lane, Sutton.
It claimed the higher cost of WRG's plan to transport the waste 65 miles to an existing incinerator in Kent made Viridor's bid to build an incinerator on the Croydon/Sutton border 'economonically advantageous'.
Campaigners warned the proposed incinerator poses increased health risks for residents including cancer and infant mortality, claiming harmful emissions are expected to be blown over Wallington and many parts of Croydon.
The deal with Viridor - the biggest in the SLWP's history - is predicted to save the partnership 197m over 25 years by avoiding expensive landfill taxes - an estimated £25m a year for the four councils by 2014 - and stand to make them money by selling energy.
Viridor's proposal is to build an incinerator burning 275,000 tonnes of waste a year to create heat and electricity built on the current Viridor waste plant in Beddington Lane.
A maximum of 215,000 tonnes of the partnership's waste would be burnt, with the rest of the capacity taken up by waste imported from elsewhere with Viridor confirming this week it would run the facility to capacity.
WRG’s alternative proposals scored higher on quality than Viridor's bid but was more expensive with savings only estimated at £110m over the quarter century.
The primary reason for the SLWP decision in December to choose Viridor was financial but the documents also claim that the WRG proposal 'performed less well in environmental terms due to the amount of transport required' to deliver the waste to an incinerator in Allington, Kent.
Environmental campaigners questioned the SLWP's decision to build a new incinerator on the Croydon/Sutton border instead of using an existing facility.
Stop The Incinerator environmental campaigner Dave Pettener, 43, of Duppas Avenue, Waddon, said: “This reinforces everything we felt. The council is there to protect local citizens. Clearly they are more concerned with turning a profit and their financial situation rather than how it is going to affect those who live there.
“It is not about nimbisim, I don’t want an incinerator anywhere, but it doesn’t make sense to build another one if a bidder was offering to use an existing one.
“The council is talking about achieving a 70 per cent recycling rate which would have negated a need for an incinerator anyway. In the long term if this is achieved they are going to have to bring in more and more waste from elsewhere rather than dealing with waste from the boroughs.”
Shasha Khan, from Sutton and Croydon Green party, said: "The SLWP should have set out environmental and social costs as a priority but this is not the case.
"When the procurement process started they (the councils) should have set out a different set of terms which didn't lead the councils towards incineration. With a choice between an incinerator here and in Kent we are stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea."
Coun Tony Newman, leader of the Croydon Labour group, said: “In Croydon’s case putting it on this site is a betrayal of promises made before last election.
“Simply it is the wrong thing to be doing and it is the wrong site. It is one of the most densely populated areas in south London and the council has ridden rough shod over the people of Croydon.
“It is quite clear part of the reason they have written roughshod over the feelings of people is they are putting making a profit first.
“Over the years all the council will be increasing recycling targets so to make up the tonnage required to fuel the incinerator will involve bring in increasing amount of waste from elsewhere.”
Tim Crowley, Sutton’s Conservative opposition’s spokes-man on the incinerator, said: “We are concerned about the environmental impact and the effect on Beddington of an increased number of trucks bringing waste to the area.
“It appears profits are being put above people and the residents of Beddington Lane are being sacrificed for the sustainable suburb of Hackbridge.”
He said he understood the council was looking at using energy produced in the incinerator as part of its vision for a carbon-neutral, “sustainable suburb” in Hackbridge.
He said the safeguards against harmful emissions created in the incineration process would not be known until the full details of the incinerator were revealed in a planning application, and environmental impact studies were carried out.
Councillor Phil Thomas, chairman of the South London Waste Partnership Joint Waste Committee, said: "Viridor had the strongest bid when assessed against the robust evaluation criteria.
“Environmental impacts, and price were important factors among the many considered, but ultimately this was deemed the best deal for local people and the environment.
“We aim to be among the highest recycling councils in the country; our contract with Viridor reflects that aim. In the future we expect our councils to be recycling more and sending less waste to the facility, so there is no question of us 'feeding the machine' at the expense of recycling.”
Croydon Council declined to comment on the issue, stating all issues are dealt with by the SLWP.
Victor Perez-Mares, a spokesman for Viridor confirmed the facility will always look to work to capacity.