Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Park Vs Park in Croydon

It seems Thornton Heath Recreation Ground is in battle again for money. Hopefully, we won't be stung by the council once again:

Taken from our summer2009 leaflet:
More evidence on how Thornton Heath Recreation Ground is being neglected by the council was seen in the Help a London Park vote organised by the Mayors Office. Members of the Friends
of Thornton Heath Recreation Ground, of which Shasha Khan is co-founder, pressed local residents to vote for the park. Unbelievably, the Chief Executive for the council emailed all council employees, to ask them to support the Wandle Park bid.
It was left to the Green Party to challenge this sharp practice. Green Party London Assembly member Darren Johnson, wrote to London Mayor Boris Johnson for an explanation. Thanks to this intervention, the Mayor recognised the potential embarrassment and offered help in finding other sources of funding.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Democracy stifled at local meeting

Last week's Broad Green and Waddon Neighbourhood Partnership meeting was nothing more than a forum for the South London Waste Plan (SLWP) to peddle their CONsensus (Not CONsultation) on the incinerator.
The SLWP agenda item was moved up the list (from 8 to 6). We realised afterwards that this had been done so that the police were still around (after their presentation) as it was assumed the debate would be heated. Is this a proper use of police time? Those attending were specifically warned that people ran the risk of ejection from the meeting should there be any deviance from accepted protocol!
Unlike any other discussion at the meeting, those who were permitted to ask a question were asked to state their address before posing their question.
I did put my hand up but the Chair, Syd Cheeswright, ignored he said he would do.

A few weeks back, I was invited to the Agenda setting meeting by the Vice Chair of the Neighbourhood Partnership (NP) with a view to making a contribution at the next meeting because the SLWP was provisionally an agenda item. Mr Cheeswright listened to what I had to say but said I had gone too far when I started talking about the Stop The Incinerator campaign. Essentially, I wasn't allowed to be political. After deliberation with others present, including a Tory councillor, I was allowed to submit a text of no more than 200 words (see end) to the Chair for the consideration. Initially, I though I would be allowed to read the text.

You can see from the letter that it was rejected even though I basically regurgitated what I said at the meeting on to paper.

On the day, Andy Day Planning Officer at the council, made a presentation along with SLWP Project Manager Emma Smyth. She originally was not scheduled to speak. Arguably, she came along after it became apparent that concerned residents who understood the motivations of the SLWP could be in attendance. Additionally, as Mr Day and Ms Smyth were both making presentations, the opportunity to scrutinise afterwards would be further limited by time. Andy Day actually emailed me earlier in the afternoon to say:

I have been given notice of some questions that might be raised at the Broad Green and Waddon Neighbourhood Partnership meeting to be held this Wednesday. I am aware that you have had previous discussions with Emma Smyth (Project Officer - JWPDPD) on the same subject and as I understand it those of us working on the Waste Plan have been consistent in advising that it is not the purpose of the Plan to address particular technologies. It follows that we will not be responding to the questions you raise.

At the meeting, Dave Pettener, who lives in Waddon ward, did manage to ask, how he was supposed to contribute to a consultation when he wasn't given any relevant data or accurate information to make a proper judgement. However, with regard to the response: obfuscation was the order of the day. Only two other residents were allowed to ask questions.

Extraordinarily, Tory Cllr Clare Hilley shouted out, "Who the hell are you?" when Mr Pettener offered to leave his written objections on the table by the exit - alongside SLWP handouts.

What this whole episode does is portray a classic tactic of the authorities: Limit the platform that objectors may have to convey their arguments; Marginalise those that want to raise objections; Intimidate objectors with a police presence at a public meeting to give the impression that these activists somehow threaten order. Hopefully, this in turn will deter them from future action. Actually it does the opposite.

200 word text submitted and subsequently rejected by the Chair:

The government has passed EU waste reduction targets to councils under the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS) which is a kind of landfill credit system, except these credits cost councils millions of pounds. This coupled with increasing landfill prices means that councils are scrambling to find alternative ways to deal with rubbish.
One way to deal with the rubbish is to burn it but incinerators are unpopular. They waste resources, release greenhouse gases and are a danger to human health. However, the EU gave authorities a get out of jail card. It decided to rebrand incinerators as ‘energy from waste plants’ – which has an environmentally friendly ring to it. Also, Waste industry consultants are pushing for this solution and councils are attracted to it because it is less complex than a reduce, reuse, recycle and compost strategy which minimizes waste.
The most plausible location for such a site is Beddington Lane – now confirmed as Sutton council’s preferred site. Because prevailing winds blow from the south west, it will be the disadvantaged western wards in the top half of Croydon that will be affected.
Last Autumns consultation which was hardly publicized. However, thanks to leading questions in the questionnaire, the procurement process was triggered. So now this juggernaut will be difficult to stop.
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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Andy Pag in Asia

Pleasant surprise to find Thornton Heath environmentalist Andy Pag on page 12 of The Observer. His Chip-fat bus is nestled to the side of the beach ball goal.
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Friday, October 16, 2009

Leaflet sparks incinerator row

I've just picked up this article which appeared in the Croydon Advertiser (page 2) a couple of weeks ago. It originated from this post.
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Sunday, October 11, 2009

23 years later Coun Jason Perry spokesperson for the authority once again

In 1986 a younger version of Shasha Khan (aged 14) attended Purley High School For Boys.
Purley Boys had the look and feel of a grammar or public school but was in fact a comprehensive. Giant honours boards adorned the walls of its main hall. The elderly headmaster, Mr Akers, was a no-nonsense strict disciplinarian. His appointed prefects were selected for their abilty to mete out the schools' punitive measures. The cane was a popular option. Records show that in the 70's nearly half the pupils who attended the school got the cane!
The head prefect/head boy was Jason Perry. He stood to the left of the headmaster during assembly each morning, up on the stage like a lieutenant monitoring his regiment.
23 years on, I am again being monitored by Jason Perry. This time he is the Conservative cabinet member for Planning and Conservation and de facto spokesperson for the the councils' incinerator plans, and I am the Green Party activist who is the bothersome individual who is raising awareness of his plan. I know he doesn't remember me from those days at Purley Boys as I was a well-behaved pupil scared of authority!
Recently, we've been having a minor spat about the incinerator in the media. In response to his letter to the Croydon Guardian, querying the need for Stop The Incinerator campaign, I sent in the letter below which was published this week.


Dear Editor,

Does this Conservative Council think that we were all born yesterday? Three weeks ago Sutton Council, publically stated that their preferred site for the incinerator was Beddington Lane, a couple hundred yards across the border in Sutton. Unless the council has found a technology to prevent emissions from entering Croydon airspace, the area that will be affected will be the wards downwind from the site; i.e. north Croydon. Cllrs Perry and Thomas only succeed in embarrassing themselves when they say, “there are no plans for an incinerator in Croydon.”

The Green Party has always stated the most plausible location for an incinerator is Beddington Lane and never sought to scaremonger. We have been proved right before when we obtained the procurement contract asking for bids for ‘refuse incinerator construction’ and right again on location. Would the Tory council accuse the Conservative candidate for Carshalton and Wallington, Ken Andrew, for scaremongering? He has publically stated he opposes the scheme. I do however agree with the councillors over Labour’s antics. Claiming to have a found a document that the Tories want to build an incinerator in Factory Lane is outrageous to the extreme. In fact Croydon Labour’s position looks increasingly ridiculous given that the Labour government forced an incinerator on the people of Bexley in 2006, against the wishes of the Conservative councillors in the area!!

What this whole sorry episode is beginning to uncover, just like many other issues before it, is the complete lack of principle shown by the Labour and Conservative parties. They are tying themselves up in political knots and falling over themselves trying to maximise gain or minimise loss on this issue. In fact, the only principle on view is: the market will deliver. However, private contractors are not going to consider social and environmental costs when calculating their bottom line. That is why the Green Party says government must intervene to ensure a sustainable and fair solution. The principle of reduce, reuse, recycle and compost must prevail which is why the Stop The Incinerator campaign was launched.

Yours sincerely

Shasha Khan

Croydon Green Party

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Thursday, October 08, 2009

Opinion piece for Operation Black Vote

Link to OBV blog post

Whilst staffing the Green Party stall at last months Thornton Heath Festival I was reminded just how many local authorities are keen to put on a party to celebrate the multi cultural nature of their borough. However, they appear much less inclined to consider the very same residents in decisions that inherently impact on the quality of their lives.

Here in Croydon the debate surrounding the South London Waste Plan is a case in point. For a year now I have been spending too much time learning about thermal treatment technologies associated with incineration such as gasification, pyrolysis and plasma arc. I can tell your eyes are already glazing over and your forefinger is primed to click on another link…but wait..if you live in south London this will impact on you! The emissions from an incinerator are associated with cancer, lung disease, kidney disease and birth defects! Thus the reason for my new found interest.

An EU Landfill Directive requires national governments to reduce the level of biodegradable municipal waste sent to landfill by 2020. The government has passed these targets to councils under the Landfill Allowance Trading Scheme (LATS) which is a kind of landfill credit system, except these credits cost councils millions of pounds. Suddenly councils need to find ways to reduce the amount biodegradable waste they send to landfill otherwise they will have to cut services or increase council tax. Here in South London four borough councils - Sutton, Kingston, Merton and Croydon - with a combined population of well over one million have pooled together to form the South London Waste Partnership.

The problem is the EU gave authorities a get out of jail card. It decided to rebrand incinerators as ‘energy from waste plants’, voted for by Labour and Conservative MEP’s, which opened the door for waste companies to make money from burning waste – all waste. Hence what was originally a method to tackle landfill and greenhouse gas emissions has now become a ticket to burn waste and make lots of money whilst doing so. Private contractors are signing 25 or 35 year deals when they build these waste disposal sites, locking councils into providing a continued waste stream.

There are dozens of schemes cropping up all over the country opposing the new generation of incinerators because they depress waste resources, release twice as much CO2 as a coal fired power station and most importantly are a danger to human health. Given the aforementioned combination of health jeopardy, hands up who wants to live next to such a site? Not me I hear you cry! Locally, we have founded the Stop the Incinerator campaign.

But, what if you do not know that the shiny metallic dome with a 100 foot chimney stack being built is an incinerator? In fact, given that it won’t be required to be called an incinerator and instead be pushed through planning as an ‘energy from waste plant’ - something with an environmentally friendly ring to it – you could be blissfully unaware.

Last autumn’s initial consultation had a booklet with fields of daisies and woodland on the front cover. Inside the booklet was a questionnaire. This questionnaire was completed by only forty one people. Just 41 out of a population of 1.1 million! Nevertheless due to the leading questions in the booklet, it triggered a billion pound procurement process allowing companies all over the EU to bid for the site. Does this smack of, “what the people don’t know won’t harm them”?

So who will end up living next to these incinerators? Well, Friends of the Earth have produced a report which shows that 50 per cent of the incinerators are situated in 10 per cent of the poorest wards in the country.

Back in October the Croydon Green Party calculated that the most plausible location for this incinerator is the existing Beddington Lane waste management site in Sutton. However, being just across the border from Croydon, it would be residents in north Croydon that would predominantly be affected. The wards in Croydon which are immediately downwind from Beddington Lane are unsurprisingly poorer wards that make up Thornton Heath. They also have a higher proportion of BME residents.

Which leads me back to my original musings. We can assume that the authorities are more likely to push an unpopular decision upon a community which doesn’t have the technical, financial or legal expertise to fight it. It’s the advantaged exercising their status over the disadvantaged; the ruling class imposing their solution on the working class. Some would argue that if the outcome of a decision disproportionately affects BME communities then it is racist regardless of the intention.

UK society is increasingly unequal. Studies show that life expectancy differs up to six years within Croydonmuch of this differential attributable to air quality. If the authorities continue to look for neo-liberalistic economic solutions to environmental issues such as waste, which fail to take into consider social and ecological costs, then the future is bleak. From north Croydon to New Orleans, it is the poorer predominantly non white communities that are most affected both locally and globally.

Back at the festival the experience was nothing short of a sensory treat. The smells, sounds and colours that gushed from the jerk grills, steel bands and carnival procession brought the Caribbean to the local High Street. What is tragic is that a couple of years from now, the likelihood is we won’t just be catching the aroma from the jerk seasoning, we could also be breathing in the toxic nanoparticles from the incinerator that go deep down into the lungs, through the membranes, into the bloodstream and finally into the brain.

By Shasha Khan

Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Croydon North.

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Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Millions spent on academisation

Linked to comment made here
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Saturday, October 03, 2009

Greens 'welcome' delgates to Croydon Labour Party Environmental Conference

Chris Sciberras pictured earlier today distributing leaflets outside Croydon Labour Party's Environmental Conference which was held at Stanley Halls - in association with the local Cooperative Party . The banter was good humoured. Labour councillors retorted with, "Vote Green, Get Blue". It takes a moment to work out what they mean......

Chris thanked Valerie Shawcross AM on her good work with regard to the trams. She replied with, "Jenny Jones has been brilliant".
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Friday, October 02, 2009

Conversation with London Eco Park (Edmondton Incinerator)

Phone call made to London Eco Park following my 'visit'. Below are the key exchanges as I recall.

SK: I was cycling down the navigation and I came across a smell as I approached the site.

LEP: What type of odour was it?

SK: A mixture of turps and cheap paint.

LEP: Well, that sort of odour is not associated with the site.

SK: So your plant doesn’t smell?

LEP: No I didn’t say that, what I meant is that the odour you describe is chemical type smell and this plant doesn’t handle chemicals. We’ve never had a complaint of a chemical type odour.

SK: I was speaking to lady on the bridge and she could smell it too.

LEP: But it wouldn’t be from the site.

SK: Could chemicals be put in household rubbish?

LEP: That is possible but this area is a big industrial estate with several firms. There are automobile works nearby. The odour could have come from another part of the estate.

SK: So what does your plant smell off?

LEP: It’s an organic smell.

To his credit, he did offer to find out more about the odour.

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Standing up for what matters