Contentious plans to build a second mass waste incinerator on the River Thames at Belvedere have been approved, in a move slammed by Labour figures across south-east London.

Cory Riverside Energy’s proposal for the additional incinerator was rubber-stamped by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy earlier this month, in a scheme long-opposed by the Mayor of London, wildlife enthusiasts, councillors and neighbours.

It comes after a Government inquiry held in June last year heard concerns about what the development would mean for the nearby Crossness Nature Reserve, as well as fears over the impact on air quality in the area.

Bexley Labour Councillors Stefano Borella and Dave Putson both spoke at the energy park hearings last year, where they questioned the need for more waste incineration in south-east London.

Following this month’s decision, Cllr Borella said the proposals would “suppress” attempts to increase recycling rates in the greater London borough. 

He described the announcement of the decision on April 9 – at a time when many residents were preoccupied with the start of the Easter weekend and the current Covid-19 pandemic – “as bitterly disappointing”.

Cllr Dave Putson, who represents Belvedere ward, said the plant would “leave a lasting impact on wildlife and habitats” on the Crossness Nature Reserve which sits immediately adjacent.

“In addition , this incinerator will increase fine dust particulate emissions and detrimentally impact on health and air quality in the local area,” he said.

Erith and Thamesmead MP Abena Oppong-Asare, whose constituency includes Belvedere, said the decision was “extremely concerning” for neighbours of the site and indicated she would challenge the decision.

“The high levels of air pollution in the UK is a public health crisis that the Government needs to take seriously,” she said.

“We should be prioritising greener and more sustainable methods of waste disposal such as recycling. The Government should not be granting permission for an incinerator that will raise pollution levels in the midst of a climate emergency.

“I will be working with colleagues to challenge this decision and ensure the concerns of Bexley residents are heard.”

The additional incinerator will form part of the Riverside Energy Park, which applicants Cory Riverside Energy say will divert up to 805,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste from landfill and produce up to 96MW of low carbon renewable electricity, the equivalent of powering around 140,000 homes.

Cory Riverside Energy said the majority of waste will be transported via barges on the River Thames, as it currently is to their existing Belvedere facility.

The firm also revealed they were in discussions with potential partners for a scheme which would see the energy park connected to a district heating network, making it capable of providing heat for around 10,500 local homes.

The facility is expected to create “at least” 75 new jobs according to the company.

A report on the Secretary of State’s notice of decision stated there was a “national need” for the development which outweighed the negative aspects raised by objectors.

The move was welcomed by group CEO of Cory Riverside Energy, Dougie Sutherland, who said the investment into infrastructure would be “vital” in a post Covid-19 world.

“We are pleased that the Secretary of State has recognised the need for more residual waste processing capacity, and has granted us permission to begin development of the Riverside Energy Park,” he said.

“Currently, over two million tonnes of London’s non-recyclable waste is sent to landfill or shipped overseas, and so more domestic capacity is needed urgently. We are proud to be playing our part through the construction of this new facility.

“This represents an investment of around half a billion pounds into the UK’s infrastructure, which will be vital for rebuilding the economy after the coronavirus pandemic has eased.”


In an additional statement, a spokesperson for Cory Riverside Energy refuted suggestions surrounding concerns on recycling levels and wildlife. 

“It is simply not true to suggest that energy from waste facilities suppress recycling rates. Instead, energy from waste complements recycling and offers a more sustainable solution than landfill or the export of non-recyclable waste, converting it into low-carbon energy to help power the national grid," the spokesperson said. 

"We have undertaken an extensive range of surveys of local habitats and wildlife and have consulted with Natural England, the government’s ecological advisor. We will ensure that disturbance to wildlife is minimised during construction (including protecting the neighbouring Crossness Nature Reserve) and will look for opportunities to enhance existing habitats or create new habitats as part of our proposals."