French waste management company SUEZ has submitted plans for an anaerobic digestion plant on the busy stretch of commercial road in Beddington Lane. However, councillors fear the plant could be detrimental to the lives of those living there and add to the pre-existing odour issues.
In the application, submitted last week, SUEZ outlined that ‘the facility would use food waste that has been thrown away by homes and businesses to create reliable, renewable gas – the equivalent needed to supply up to 8,200 homes.’
If approved by Sutton Council, the application also promised 40 temporary jobs during the site’s construction period, which could begin in 2024 if approved. A further 21 permanent green jobs could also be available upon the plant’s completion at the end of 2025.
However, local councillors have criticised the plant as a possible ‘polluter’ that would negatively impact the area’s residents. They say the the increased traffic in the already heavily industrialised area, would detriment residents and bring more waste to an area that already houses a landfill.
There are also fears that the addition of the plant would add to the foul smell that already emanates from the nearby Viridor incinerator. The incinerator, otherwise known as the Beddington Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) billows smoke from its tall chimneys, and often carries the smell of burning waste around the vicinity.
This incinerator is used by boroughs part of the South London Waste Partnership; Croydon, Sutton, Merton and Kingston. Its presence has helped Beddington achieve the title of having the most energy burnt from waste plants on one road in Western Europe.
The incinerator exceeded its permitted output of Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) five times during December 2023 and has since registered its first breach of the year on January 19. While the Environment Agency regulates the incinerator, councillors often criticise the Lib Dem run Council for not holding Viridor to account for these breaches.
Meanwhile, SUEZ wants the new plant to be housed at the currently derelict site at 79-85 Beddington Lane, just north of Mile Road and the existing Beddington Water Treatment Works. If approved, the plant will become one of two anaerobic digestion plants in London, the other being in Dagenham.
SUEZ’s proposed anaerobic digestion plant would process food waste thrown away by homes and businesses in London by breaking it down so it can be used to generate gas and other materials.
In addition to producing water and a biofertilizer, known as digestate, the process also produces biogas, which is a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide. Digestate is most frequently utilised as fertiliser because of its high nutrient content, even though biogas can also be used to produce heat and electricity.
SUEZ have said this application follows a consultation they carried out last Summer, in which local communities, businesses and elected representatives took part. We shared information about the plans for the disused site currently allocated for waste use in the South London Waste Plan and heard views from those local to the site.
In their accompanying statement, they reiterated their commitment to communication, saying: “We are committed to continuously engaging with and supporting the local communities around our facilities.”
However, according to independent ward councillor Nick Mattey, SUEZ regularly ignores residents’ concerns over odour and health. He told the LDRS: “Beddington already handles 80per cent of the waste and faecal matter generated within a 10-mile radius. We have reached our limit, and further imposition of such facilities is unwelcome and designed to further marginalise our community.”
He added: “It is an appalling idea where a multi-national believes that it can drag down the quality of people’s lives by bringing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of food waste into Beddington. It just shows the contempt the company shows for local residents and why Sutton is regarded as a soft touch by any dirty industry.”
Opposition to the increased industrialisation of Beddington is an issue that regularly crosses political boundaries. This is mainly due to the smell and SO2 fumes that are carried from the incinerator to nearby areas such as Hackbridge.
Dave Tchil, Labour councillor for Hackbridge, echoed Mattey’s concerns over the proposed site and further criticised what he saw as the council’s double standards. He said: “Sutton Labour have been consistent in challenging polluting and harmful industries such as the Beddington Incinerator.
“Our residents primary concerns are of odour and safer waste management. We’ll challenge SUEZ to evaluate the impact of this new site but understand the Liberal Democrat group has objected to a nearby site on vehicle movements alone, which for consistency, they will have to apply here, or admit there are issues with the Incinerator site.”
When approached for comment, a spokesperson for the London Borough of Sutton said: “The Beddington Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) is managed by Viridor and regulated by the Environment Agency. The Council takes any complaints about residents’ health extremely seriously.
“If people do have concerns they should contact their health professional and the Council. The Council is in active communication with the Environment Agency about the monitoring of the site. Following a recent event we have demanded a meeting with Viridor and the Environment Agency about the management of the site.
“We have also been clear to both Viridor and the Environment Agency of our opposition to proposed plans to increase the amount of waste processed at the ERF.”
When approached for comment, a spokesperson for SUEZ said:“We’re fully committed to engaging with local communities as part of this application. If approved by the council, this facility would use food waste that has been thrown away by homes and businesses in London to create reliable and renewable energy.”
“We understand that there are always concerns when new facilities are proposed and we have provided substantial details as part of our planning application on how we would operate. This includes measures to protect the local environment like minimising noise, using sophisticated odour controls to keep any odours inside our building and by preventing any lorries from travelling through Beddington Village.
“SUEZ already has planning permission for a much larger waste treatment facility on this site. If the anaerobic digestion plant is approved then it would replace this previous proposal.”
Photos: The SUEZ plant could be housed down the road from the controversial Viridor incinerator Credit: Merton TV
Sutton protest against the Beddington incinerator. Credit: Tara O\’Connor.