The 72MW waste-to-energy plant will be built in Belvedere by Riverside Resource Recovery Ltd, a stone’s throw from Thames Water’s existing sludge incinerator at Crossness.

Government, not the local authority, has the final say on planning applications for power stations which produce more than 50MW.

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks said the incinerator was necessary to help tackle London’s waste problems. But the decision has been slammed by the GLA and environmental NGOs such as Friends of the Earth, which argue incineration is a step in the wrong direction and more should be done to promote recycling.

“This energy from waste station will be fuelled by waste which would otherwise have to go to landfill,” said Mr Wicks.

“London has a serious waste problem much of which it currently exports to landfill in the Home Counties. I agree with the Inspector that even if London were to meet the ambitious recycling targets envisaged by the Mayor for London there will still be ample residual waste to fuel the station.

“This decision will make an important contribution to tackling London’s waste problem.

“I am also pleased to see that waste transfer to the site will be primarily by barge along the River Thames.”

Nicky Gavron, Deputy Mayor of London, said building the incinerator would be a backwards step.

“Once you decide to build an incinerator you have it for 30 years,” she said.

“This decision is encouraging London to dispose of its waste in an unsustainable way, by continuing to transport it to the outskirts of the capital to be dealt with.

“The Belvedere incinerator would be the biggest incinerator in the UK and one of the biggest in Europe. Thousands of tonnes of London’s waste such as plastic bottles, cans and food waste that could be easily recycled or turned into renewable gas will instead be burnt, this is short-term thinking, not a twenty-first century solution.

“Our research shows that we can manage 85 per cent of our waste in London by 2020 without a huge new incinerator.

“This would also create a whole new green sector of industries recycling and processing waste and making renewable sources of energy by gasification or the anaerobic digestion of waste.”

FoE also argues the plant would be a waste of resources.

Friends of the Earth London Campaigner Jenny Bates said: “The Government is supposed to be promoting recycling and waste prevention but they have just allowed the biggest incinerator in Europe to be built in London,” said Jenny Bates, London campaigner for the group.

“It will not only end up burning lots of materials that should be recycled, but it will also emit large amounts of climate-changing carbon dioxide.

“Britain still languishes near the bottom of Europe’s recycling table – we need to address this and make the most of our waste – not burn it.”

While Government – and most within the waste industry – believe that incineration will play a necessary role in the future of the UK’s waste management, FoE says that arguments that try to portray it as green or renewable energy are unfounded.

Research commissioned by the NGO suggests that a waste to electricity incinerator such as that proposed for Belvedere produces more carbon dioxide from fossil fuels, such as plastics in rubbish, than a gas-fired power station.

This study also shows that the UK could invest in a real renewable energy-from-waste technology, anaerobic digestion, which takes kitchen and commercial food waste and converts it into methane that can then be burnt. The resulting residue can then be used as compost.

Opponents of the anaerobic solution argument say it would be difficult to implement on a large scale and that there are commercial obstacles to overcome.

Sam Bond

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