The Beddington Farmlands high court case is tomorrow. So what is the potential fate for the farmlands?:
1) Lose. If we lose the case the incinerator will go ahead. If it goes ahead Viridor and Sutton are tied in for 60 years of land management and are still bound by planning obligations to create a nature reserve at the heartland of the Regional Park. The only difference is that there will be an incinerator in the mix (not ideal and it should never have happened). However with a stretch of the imagination the incinerator can actually be integrated into the park (plenty of nature reserves have industrial features as their backdrop e.g. Dungeness, Minsmere, Rainham etc etc) as a renewable energy project and certain aspects of it (such as the cooling pools and green roof) might actually create some new habitat and potentially will also provide a source of water for the proposed wet grassland. As part of the mitigation package of this application we also get a new warden, a community fund, a new management body and a new area integrated into the conservation management plan. However we've lost some extremely important habitat and have long term issues to worry about such as the kind of precedence this sets and the effects that the habitat fragmentation will have. Also the air pollution risk is a concern for local people so will continue to explore the possibility of setting up an independent air quality monitoring system in our local community (and report any breaches to the EA).
On a more positive note, leading up to the JR, the bird and wildlife group have grown its membership and support base considerably, have got a new website, new social media sites and there has been a lot of publicity for the reserve with new partnerships formed and we are certainly in a better position to move forward in the future. We've also learnt some legal challenging skills (and hopefully got to cause the offenders trouble for the trouble that they've caused to the birds and wildlife, trouble they could possibly avoid in the future if there is more commitment to the needs of wildlife and local people?) and we also have the option that we can immediately start a new case against Sutton for the lack of enforcement of previous planning conditions. Ideally it would be better if we could avoid conflict so will only do that as a last resort (if things keep going nowhere or backwards).
So with the new strengthened position of the wildlife community and the new conservation management plan and new commitments to improve the situation from the authorities it hopefully will not be too bad. In fact we have to make the best of the situation and will move on swiftly.
2)Win. If we win the case, the future is more uncertain. Viridor could potentially walk away from the site leaving behind a half job (Sutton have been unable to enforce previous conditions so its possible they won't be able to challenge the walk away). It could be extremely problematic to find the funding to complete the reserve. Also if we win Viridor and Sutton could appeal and then drag everyone back into court- it was tough enough this time raising the money and keeping the momentum. Would we get the Aarhus convention protection this time? There's also the possibility that an alternative plan for waste management could be more harmful for the reserve- a multi-resource facility to deal with waste could have a bigger footprint and destroy more green space.
Maybe if we win, the planning application will go back to the drawing board, with a new smaller plant proposed as part of a de-centralised approach to waste management (with more of a focus on reducing waste) across South London and a better improved mitigation package for the reserve. However that is the ideal world and we do not live in an ideal world- yet. However that would be the ultimate solution (but maybe a bit dreamy but that is what should happen!).
So basically, in a way. if we lose we win and if we win we win. Whatever happens will continue working for the reserve and the wildlife and for the people who support that.