This afternoon, I led a debate in Parliament on waste incineration and recycling rates.
It was the third time I had spoken in a debate in Westminster on incineration since the election and, next to the additional £500 million for our new local hospitals, this is one of the topics that I speak about most in the House.
I have repeatedly raised concerns with Ministers in the past about emissions breaches in incinerators; the need for independently run air quality monitoring stations near those sites, rather than leaving them to be self-reporting by the operator; the need to focus on the circular economy, reducing the amount of waste we produce in the first place; and the all-important knock-on effect of operating incinerators, such as traffic movements in the surrounding area.
Carshalton and Wallington residents were promised quite a lot when the Liberal Democrats approved the building of an incinerator in Beddington.
They were promised the Beddington farmlands, which are now several years overdue.
They were promised things such as new wildlife habitats to rebuild rare species, only for the water levels surrounding ground-nesting birds for protection to be allowed to drop and for predators to attack and destroy their nests last year.
They were promised robust reporting on carbon, only for there to be, by my calculation, 184 incidences where they exceeded the 150 mg carbon monoxide limits and 733 invalid carbon monoxide reports in 2020 alone.
They were promised a stronger local road network to cope with the traffic, only for residents on Beddington Lane to constantly face problems with their traffic and air pollution, and much more besides.
It is no surprise that residents feel let down and even angry that the concerns they continue to raise continue to be brushed aside and not acted upon.
There have been new developments at Beddington that have caused alarm, particularly the new south London waste plan.
The plan is supposed to bring together the lead members from four councils in south London - Sutton, Kingston, Croydon and Merton - and ultimately decide a strategy on how to deal with their waste. In short, the strategy is to make Sutton and particularly Beddington Lane the dumping ground of south London.
Under the plan, Sutton will ambitiously take more than 700,000 tonnes of waste from the four boroughs - more than half of all the waste produced by the four boroughs. Croydon is taking about 19 per cent and Merton is taking about 26 per cent, but the real winner here is Lib Dem-run Kingston Council, which is taking a measly 2.6 per cent of all waste produced across four London boroughs. To add insult to injury, Beddington is increasing its maximum capacity by around 45,000 tonnes, taking it to 347,422 tonnes of waste per year.
Together with the waste plan, the increase in Beddington’s maximum capacity and the approval of a new Suez site in Beddington Lane means around 1 million tonnes of waste a year are projected to be sent there. To put that into perspective, that is around 500 heavy goods vehicle movements a day just for waste, let alone all the other industrial sites that require heavy goods vehicles in Beddington.
The uplift in the maximum capacity at Beddington was approved by the Environment Agency on 9 December. I urge it to reconsider granting that uplift.
It is baffling to me that the South London Waste Partnership, which oversaw the plan, went on to meet more than a week after the decision was taken, on 17 December, and suddenly decided that it was not entirely happy with the increase in Beddington’s capacity. I am slightly confused as to why it did not know that the decision had been taken over a week beforehand, and what the point of the partnership is if the lead councillors from the four boroughs have no control or influence over decisions of this nature. To many residents, this appears nothing more than a convenient distraction to allow the Lib Dems to pursue their implied ambition to make Sutton the dumping ground of south London and give their mates in Kingston a hand, at the expense of roads and air pollution in Sutton.
I had hoped that we might get answers to these questions last night, when the Conservative group on Sutton Council brought a motion to full council stating its opposition to the increase and asking that Sutton gets a fair share. However, during what I can only call a childish debate, the Lib Dems reverted to their usual diktat on the incinerator: “Nothing to see here. Not me, guv. We’re ambitious about our waste plans here, mate.” They then proceeded to vote for an amendment that removed the very line that called for Sutton to get a fair share.
Let that sink in for a bit.
The Lib Dems essentially voted against Sutton having a fair deal on waste management.
That is disgraceful.
The Beddington farmlands have been delayed, wildlife habitats have been attacked, air quality monitoring is negligent, roads are unable to cope, and now we have a projected almost 1 million tonnes of rubbish making its way to Sutton, much of it to be burned.
Under any measurement, this is a bad deal for Beddington, for Hackbridge and for Carshalton and Wallington as whole.
I will continue to fight for residents on this important issue, and would welcome your views and comments if you would like to get in touch. You can read a full transcript of the debate here, and watch my opening remarks above.