Campaigners are fighting plans to build a pair of carbon capture plants on Crossness Nature Reserve in Belvedere, saying that the area cannot afford to lose any more natural marshland.
Cory Group, a waste management company, wants to build the plants to capture carbon dioxide from their two nearby incinerators, which generate electricity. The plants would capture 1.3million tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, according to planning documents.
CPRE, a countryside charity, has hit out at the plans. Its London head of green space campaigns, Alice Roberts, said: “Just as we come to terms with the threat to nearby Crayford Marshes, part of which has been bought by Berkeley Homes with a view to using it for development, we find out the incredible nature reserve at Crossness is also under serious threat from disappearing forever. Where is our wildlife going to live?
“This site is literally irreplaceable. There is almost nothing left of the natural riverside in London. What remains is rightfully protected and should remain so.”
Laurence Pinturaunt, a local resident and a member of the Friends of Crossness and Erith Marshes group told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The Thamesmead marshes, which are made up of Erith Southern Marsh and Crossness Nature Reserve, are part of the last remnants of grazing marshes in southeast London. As such, they are very significant. That is a habit that has been disappearing very fast and most of the sites have been lost to industrialisation.”
“They have very rich wildlife. There are water invertebrates, they have ditches which are full of water voles and are homes to kingfishers. The marshes also provide mud flats, which are really important habitats for waders and water birds, some of which travel thousands of miles from Africa to come and breed and forage on those sites.”
Pinturaunt said that hundreds of people regularly visit the marshes, including birdwatchers, joggers and residents taking their horses to graze. She said locals were “hugely worried” about the project, fearing local waterways could be contaminated by chemicals on the site, and that the carbon capture plants would become a “white elephant”.
She said: “These incinerators have reduced recycling rates in London for the last 20 to 30 years. We haven’t been recycling as much as we should have, because we have these incinerators burning rubbish on our doorstep.”
Cory Group said in planning documents that the project would result in a net increase to the area of Crossness Nature Reserve by six hectares, which would be retained as green space.
The incinerators have been hugely controversial, with construction of the second plant opposed by local MP Abena Oppong-Asare and London mayor Sadiq Khan.
Richard Wilkinson, the project director, said that carbon capture technology was the best way for incinerators to reduce CO2 emissions by storing them under the North Sea, and that the project would be carbon negative overall.
He said: “Part of our project currently requires building on paddocks that form part of the Crossness Nature Reserve and are situated immediately adjoining the energy-from-waste facilities that would be decarbonised.
“Our plans include the opportunity to enhance existing land within the managed nature reserve as well as increasing its overall size, growing it from its current 25 hectares to 31 hectares. Our proposals also include opportunities to improve green spaces in the local area.”
A consultation into the plans is running until November 29 at corydecarbonisation.co.uk.
This story contains material from the Local Democracy Reporting Service. Additional reporting by Darryl Chamberlain.