Cllr Nick Mattey has been suspended from membership of the Sutton Liberal Democrat Group. He has been suspended because of his recent public statement that: “I will not be lending my support to the Council on this matter and instead I am backing the Stop the Incinerator Campaign.” This means that for the time being he cannot describe himself as a Liberal Democrat councillor. The suspension is temporary pending an investigation.
Council Leader Ruth Dombey said: “Not only are Nick’s statements contrary to our policy, they are also wrong and inflammatory. As such they are raising unnecessary fears and concerns among local residents.”
The planning application for the Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) was subject to detailed and expert scrutiny to ensure that the plant will operate to the highest environmental standards and will not affect people’s health.
This facility has been driven by the aim of four local Councils of finding an alternative to landfill, which releases large amounts of greenhouse gases which are a major driver of climate change. The ERF has cross-party political support as the four members of the South London Waste Partnership, which commissioned the facility, consist of Croydon, Merton, Kingston and Sutton.
It fell to Sutton to determine the planning application as Viridor decided to locate the ERF in our borough on the existing landfill site.
As a result of hard negotiations to mitigate the impact of locating the facility here it will mean:
- The creation of a new regional park between Mitcham and Beddington
- A reduction in the potential maximum tonnage of refuse dealt with at the Beddington site
- The provision of enough power to heat 30,000 homes
- Savings of £200m over 25 years (the current landfill costs £4.5m a year, with projected increases of £410k each year) which will help protect local council services
- A reduction in carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere of 128,000 tonnes a year
Currently the Beddington landfill has a licence to deal with 400,000 tonnes of waste per year. The proposed plant would have a licence to deal with 302,000 tonnes of waste. This means there will be fewer lorry movements associated with the ERF than if the open landfill were operating at full capacity.
In addition, construction vehicles are required to access the site using Coomber Way. This will be enforced using GPS and number plate recognition, and will reduce site traffic on Hilliers Lane.
Across the four South West London boroughs, residents create around 200,000 tonnes of waste which currently goes to landfill. The additional 102,000 tonnes of waste the plant could deal with would come from the commercial sector. As the boroughs increase the amount of waste that is recycled the facility will increase the amount of commercial waste it accepts. This is expected to lead to more efficient and reduced vehicle use.
Council Leader Ruth Dombey added: "Given the experiences of the 50’s and 60’s with incinerators, I can appreciate why people have concerns about the health impact of energy recovery facilities. However, research on more recent facilities shows that there is not enough evidence to suggest that incineration, when carried out using the most up to date technology, operating at the highest temperature, negatively affects people's health."
In 2006, The Health Protection Agency calculated particulate matter pollution (PM10) from incineration was 0.03% of the total compared with 27% and 25% for traffic and industry respectively. The Health Protection Agency argued that this low proportion was also found at a local level. This suggests tackling emissions from traffic and industry may lead to greater reductions in PM10 levels.
Sutton Council’s Planning Department secured the services of an environmental compliance specialist to review the emissions data in Viridor’s proposal. They were able to satisfy the Council’s planning committee that sufficient safeguards are in place to protect people's health.
Viridor has made a commitment to monitoring emissions from the ERF. In addition to the on site emissions monitoring, the facility will be closely monitored by the Environment Agency, through comparison of emissions with industry best practice to ensure that it meets the strict emission criteria set out in the European Union’s Waste Incineration Directive.
There will also be a process of assessment by scientific experts (from the Health Protection Agency) and advice from specialist bodies (Food Standards Agency, Local Health Board).
It is worth noting that choosing an ERF will not affect South London Waste Partnership’s commitment to continued waste reduction and recycling. Viridor already recycles over 1m tonnes a year and the contract for the ERF will incentivise continued waste reduction and recycling by allowing for declining tonnage of waste to be put through the facility in future years.