Cory Belvedere
Cory’s existing plant already burns waste from across London

An MP and local councillors have criticised the government’s approval of a new incinerator by the River Thames at Belvedere.

Alok Sharma, the secretary of state for business, has approved the “energy park” development by Cory Riverside Energy, which will also feature an anaerobic digestion facility for food and green waste, solar power generation and battery storage. He said there was a “compelling case” to approve the scheme, which also includes laying a cable to Littlebrook power station in Dartford.

The company says the new facility – next to its existing incinerator – will provide 75 jobs and power the equivalent of 140,000 homes. But wildlife campaigners and local Labour councillors had objected to the scheme on environmental grounds. London mayor Sadiq Khan also opposed the proposals.

Erith and Thamesmead MP Abena Oppong-Asare called the decision “extremely concerning” and indicated she would support any judicial review of the decision.

“The high level of air pollution in the UK is a public health crisis that the government needs to take seriously,” she said. “We should be prioritising greener and more sustainable methods of waste disposal such as recycling. The government should not be granting permission for an incinerator that will raise pollution levels in the midst of a climate emergency.

“I will be working with colleagues to challenge this decision and ensure the concerns of Bexley residents are heard.”

Her predecessor Teresa Pearce objected to the scheme, as did Sir David Evenett, the Conservative MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford. However, Conservative-run Bexley Council supported the scheme “in principle” so long as the right mitigation was put in place, while Labour Greenwich said it was “satisfied that the air quality impacts would be negligible” with the right safeguards.

Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas, whose constituency is across the Thames from the plant, has also criticised the decision, declaring that “the fight isn’t over” and promising to look at avenues to challenge the decision.

‘This won’t boost recycling’

Bexley Labour councillor Stefano Borella, who represents Slade Green and North End ward, said it was “bitterly disappointing” that the announcement of the project’s approval was made the day before Good Friday, when many residents’ minds would have been on the coronavirus emergency.

He added: “These proposals don’t support increasing recycling rates and evidence shows local authorities that use these facilities have seen their recycling rates suppressed. In addition, the increased traffic and congestion as a result of cable laying to Littlebrook power station will impact on air quality.”

His colleague Dave Putson, of Belvedere ward, said: “This plant will detrimentally impact on the immediately adjacent Crossness nature reserve and will have a lasting impact on wildlife and habitats carefully nurtured over many years. In addition , this incinerator will increase fine dust particulate emissions and detrimentally impact on health and air quality in the local area.”

Last year, Khan said the scheme was “the last thing we need” in a city with “a toxic air health crisis”. His criticisms emerged on the same day that the identity of a consortium to run his controversial Silvertown Tunnel road scheme – which protesters say will damage air quality – was announced.

The first incinerator, which opened in 2012, was bitterly opposed by Bexley Council and former London mayor Ken Livingstone, who tried to overturn its approval in the courts.

Cory Riverside Energy’s chief executive Dougie Sutherland hailed the government approval, saying: “Currently, over two million tonnes of London’s non-recyclable waste is sent to landfill or shipped overseas, and so more domestic capacity is needed urgently. We are proud to be playing our part through the construction of this new facility.

“This represents an investment of around half a billion pounds into the UK’s infrastructure, which will be vital for rebuilding the economy after the coronavirus pandemic has eased. In the meantime, we will continue to focus on the health and safety of our staff whilst delivering the essential waste management service that the country needs during this period of uncertainty. We will support the national response to coronavirus in whatever way we can.”

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