Wildlife enthusiasts, councillors and concerned neighbours have spoken out as a government inquiry into a contentious new incinerator in Belvedere begins.

Residents have long urged the government to pull the plug on Cory Riverside Energy’s proposed waste incinerator at their site near to Crossness Nature Reserve in Belvedere.

Environmental campaigners who use the acres of specially maintained greenbelt land say another huge incinerator will drive the rare wildlife across the river, ruining a “hidden jewel” and one of London’s few nature reserves.

Neighbours and councillors also have concerns over the air quality in the area, fearing fumes could lead to health impacts on people living nearby.

A four-day hearing kicked off on Tuesday, June 4, at Belvedere Community Centre ahead of a decision being made next year.

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Slade Green councillor Stefano Borella told the meeting: “I have major concerns and reservations about this proposal and question the need for more waste disposal facilities in the south east of London.

“This scheme does not support increased recycling rates, indeed there is evidence that authorities using similar facilities have seen a decrease.

“Indeed the government has been considering implementing an incineration tax, what future impact would this have on the park? It is disappointing to note that no other locations were considered for the scheme. Environmental concerns were not high on the list of priorities.

“This could have a lasting impact on habitats carefully nurtured for many years. The best mitigation is not to build the park.”

Several residents have listed air quality as a major concern ahead of the four-day hearing, one day of which is dedicated to the issue.

Cory already has one 750,000 tonne facility at the site, and says another one is a crucial option for disposing of London’s waste.

Abbey Wood councillor Anne-Marie Cousins told Cory officials that if they are comfortable with the plant’s fumes they should be prepared to live next door to it.

“If you take health seriously, you move next door to it”, she said. “If you’re happy to go there, take the lead. Can you guarantee zero health consequences?”

Campaigners say adding another plant, which would be even closer to Cory’s boundary on the site, would drive birds like the red kite, buzzard, marsh harrier or barn owl away from the habitat.

Esther Cook, a “friend” of Crossness nature reserve said: “I started visiting this site ten years ago. It turns a brownfield site into something quite special.

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“Even on a wet day in the middle of winter it is completely amazing what you can see, it is something special.  All this niggling away at London’s open space is of concern to anybody – and this is likely to drive species away completely.”

Cory’s incinerator takes waste from across London, not just Bexley, and burns it at high temperatures to generate energy.

The firm says it will provide up to 30 megawatts of ‘affordable energy’ to houses in the area, and offer up to 6,000 jobs on the new site during construction and a further 100 once it is up and running.

Dougie Sutherland, CEO of Cory Riverside Energy, said previously when responding to criticism from the Mayor of London: “Everyone in London wants a clean city and it’s easy to assume that incinerating waste is an outdated method. But, done responsibly, it’s a modern, clean and efficient solution that does not impact on London’s recycling rates.

“The Mayor is simply wrong to say that the proposed plant would emit more than four times as much NOx as our existing facility and the Crossness sewage plant combined. In fact, levels will be only one third of current emissions from the existing Cory facility, which has operated consistently within all environmental limits since day one.

“We want to reassure all Londoners that this would be the most modern and cleanest energy from waste plant in the UK.”