South London residents raise health fears as incinerator set for expansion in Beddington

Residents have protested against the expansion of the incinerator (Supplied)
Residents have protested against the expansion of the incinerator (Supplied)

South London residents have hit out at plans to increase the amount an incinerator can burn next to their homes.

The Environment Agency is set to approve a ten per cent increase in the amount of rubbish the Beddington Incinerator in Sutton can burn, despite concerns from residents that the resulting smoke is harming their children’s health.

The site, run by waste giant Viridor, already has a capacity to burn 347,422 tonnes, but the Environment Agency is set to formally green light an increase to 382,286 tonnes, sparking protests.

Jim Duffy, an environmental campaigner who lives close to the site, said: “The big concern is people’s health, it’s very frequent to smell the incinerator late at night and throughout the morning, my wife has to shut the bedroom window.

“I’ve been wheezing a lot more than I ever used to, and my wife gets a stinging in her nose from it. You can smell a burning, acrid smell, and that can’t not have an effect on your health.”

The incinerator is close to residents' homes in south London (Supplied)
The incinerator is close to residents' homes in south London (Supplied)

A draft EA decision states the expansion would only be allowed on the basis that “no significant pollution is caused," and that it would not significantly harm human health.

But Mr Duffy said: “As far as I’m concerned, it’s a polluter’s charter.”

Viridor were appointed to operate the incinerator on a £1 billion contract by the South London Waste Partnership run by Kingston, Merton, Sutton and Croydon councils.

More than 200 public comments of opposition to the expansion have been submitted to the Environment Agency, and it is also opposed by Carshalton and Wallington MP Elliot Colburn.

Locals said they were also concerned about a power fault last week which meant that the plant’s normal process for removing pollutants from the smoke was not working.

Viridor said it was investigating the fault and no new waste was burned while the power was down.

Dave Tchil, a Labour councillor for the neighbouring Hackbridge ward who raised the issue, said that acrid smoke was constantly emanating from the incinerator.

“This is an urban environment, it’s the south London suburbs, people’s homes are here,” said Cllr Tchil.

“We turned Battersea Power Station into a shopping centre - so why are we allowing a ‘Battersea Power Station’ in Sutton?”

A Viridor spokesperson said independent reviews had concluded the incinerator could burn more waste without "causing negative impacts to the surrounding environment".

"As a region the South East and greater London area continues to see an increase in residual waste volumes with large quantities either being exported to Europe or sent to UK landfill," said the spokesperson.

"The variation will enable Viridor to reduce the environmental impact of non-recycled waste produced in London and the South East."

An Environment Agency spokesperson said: “We are reviewing all of the comments submitted during the second consultation and liaising with our professional partners, such as the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).

“We do not have a set date for the final decision, but it is likely to be sometime during October.”