High Court rejects Croydon incinerator judicial review bid

A High Court judge has rejected a judicial review of a planning approval for an incinerator in south London on land earmarked for a country park.

Shasha Khan, founder of the campaign group Friends of Thornton Heath Recreation Ground and a co-ordinator for the Sutton and Croydon Green party, had sought a ruling that would have quashed the London Borough of Sutton’s grant of planning permission for the incinerator at Beddington farmlands, planned to burn 275,000 tonnes of domestic waste a year, plus additional commercial and industrial waste, between 2017 and 2040.

Khan claimed the development would harm birdlife on a farmland site and prevent the site from taking its intended place as the "centrepiece" of the long-planned Wandle Valley Regional Park.

However, Mrs Justice Patterson rejected all of his grounds of complaint and ruled that the planning permission for what she described as a "high profile and quite controversial" development of "potential strategic importance to London" should stand.

Protestors had massed outside London’s Royal Courts of Justice ahead of the two-day hearing last month, in which they hoped to win an order forcing the council to take another look at the proposal put forward by waste management company Viridor, which has entered into a contract worth an estimated £990 million to process the South London Waste Partnership’s municipal waste from 2017.

But the judge ruled that the council had not wrongly interpreted the South London Waste Plan, produced jointly by authorities for Croydon, Kingston, Merton and Sutton, and also dismissed claims that the council failed to take into account harm to Metropolitan Open Land and the planned Wandle Valley Regional Park.

Though the site currently comprises a landfill facility, a composting centre and a skip waste recycling centre, Khan had argued that such use is supposed to come to an end in 2023 under the development plan for the area, with the land then intended to be incorporated into the Wandle Valley Regional Park as its "centrepiece".

But the judge said that this claim was "based on a misreading" of a report prepared by the council’s planning officers.

She added that nothing in that report significantly misled council members about material matters, and that the officers "were satisfied that there were sufficient very special circumstances to overcome the identified harm".

As a result, she said, the council’s approach was "unassailable", and that it had amply justified its conclusion that there was an "urgent need" for the Beddington waste site.

Justine Thornton had argued on Khan’s behalf that the council acted "unlawfully" in granting permission for the controversial development, which was the subject of ten petitions amassing almost 2,000 signatures, and which has been objected to by conservation groups including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

But Saira Kabir Sheikh QC, representing the council, said that it was entitled to grant permission, in March, for the development, and that there was no error of law in its decision.

She said that the impact of the development on the proposed park was fully assessed by the council’s planning officer, whose report concluded that there would be no harm to nature conservation.

R on the Application of Khan v London Borough of Sutton. Case No: CO/1878/2014


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