London mayor abandons plan to legally challenge Bexley incinerator scheme over costs – paving the pay for second waste burning site on Thames

By Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has made the “difficult decision” to abandon a legal challenge against controversial plans for a new waste-burning incinerator on the River Thames, with the cash-strapped office citing “substantial costs” of continuing with the case as the reason.

Mr Khan’s office confirmed yesterday the judicial review, which had been due to start this month, would no longer go ahead.

A spokesman for the Mayor confirmed he had withdrawn the claim after receiving legal advice surrounding the likely high cost of the challenge.

It’s understood the Mayor was also advised the likelihood of winning the case was low.

It means Cory Riverside Energy, which already operates one waste-burning incinerator at the riverside Belvedere site, will now be free to build a second in Belvedere.

Mr Khan has maintained a long-running opposition to the scheme, alongside local MPs, councillors and community groups who harbour concerns over what an additional facility there would mean for air quality in the area.

The Mayor’s last-ditch legal challenge came after the Secretary of State rubber-stamped Cory’s application for the second incinerator following a Government inquiry in 2019.

“The Mayor has been clear that London is facing a climate emergency and does not need more energy from waste incinerators. He has repeatedly called on Government to reject plans for the new proposed incinerator in Bexley,” a spokesman for the Mayor of London said.

“Following the Secretary of State’s decision to make the development consent order, the Mayor was granted permission from the High Court to bring a judicial review of this decision.

“However after further legal advice the Mayor has taken the difficult decision to withdraw his claim, mindful of the substantial costs of proceeding to a full hearing. None of this detracts from his continued opposition to the Bexley incinerator.”

The news was met with disappointment by Erith and Thamesmead MP Abena Oppong-Asare, whose constituency includes the Belvedere site.

The Labour MP raised the possibility of using community fundraising as an avenue to secure a new judicial review into the issue, alongside her cross-river colleague, Dagenham and Rainham MP Jon Cruddas.

“My views on the Belvedere Incinerator remain unchanged – this incinerator will have harmful impacts on my constituents’ health, on the environment and on the rare wildlife habitats surrounding it,” she said.

“Sadiq Khan has been supportive of our calls to oppose the incinerator and I’m aware this has not been an easy decision for him to make. In the midst of a pandemic the Mayor has had to weigh up the cost to taxpayers and the likelihood that we would be successful in a judicial review.

“I hope that we are able to fundraise to be able to go ahead with this review and I thank local residents who continue to fight the construction of this incinerator alongside me.”

A spokeswoman for Cory welcomed the decision to withdraw the claim.

“Everyone in London wants a clean city and done responsibly energy-from-waste provides a modern, clean and efficient solution to waste management,” he said.

“The proposed Riverside Energy Park delivers such a solution, diverting waste from landfill that cannot be reused or recycled whilst converting it into secure and reliable supplies of low carbon energy as part of the UK’s transition to a low carbon economy.

“We will now be making necessary preparation to start construction of the project and we look forward to working with City Hall.”

Pictured top: Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office has indicated further action will be taken on the decision to approve a controversial application for another mass waste incinerator at Belvedere

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