London Mayor Sadiq Khan has made the “difficult decision” to abandon a legal challenge against controversial plans for a new waste-burning incinerator by the Thames at Belvedere, with the cash-strapped office citing “substantial costs” of continuing with the case as the reason.
Mr Khan’s office confirmed on Wednesday the judicial review, which had been due to start in October, would no longer go ahead, the Local Democracy Reporting Service can reveal.
A spokesperson for the mayor confirmed he had withdrawn the claim after receiving legal advice surrounding the likely high cost of the challenge. It is understood that Khan was also advised the likelihood of winning the case was low.
It means Cory Riverside Energy, which already operate one waste-burning plant at the site, will now be free to build the second facility.
Khan has been a longstanding opponent of the scheme alongside local MPs, Bexley councillors and community groups who have concerns over air quality.
The mayor’s last-ditch legal challenge came after Alok Sharma, the secretary of state for business, rubber-stamped Cory’s application for the second incinerator following a planning 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 spokesperson 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.”
‘You cannot place a price on health’
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.”
Mr Cruddas expressed concern over what the decision would mean for the “future health” of his constituents living on the northern bank of the River Thames.
“After raising our hopes following a two-year battle I was incredibly disappointed to learn that the judicial review had been dropped due to high costs for the taxpayer,” he said.
“To my mind you cannot place a price on the future health of Rainham residents and air quality across the south of my constituency.”
A spokesperson 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.”
Lachlan Leeming is the Local Democracy Reporter for Greenwich and Bexley. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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