MP will urge council to veto scrapyard scheme

street protest meeting
MP Helen Hayes addresses a protest meeting outside the proposed site for the plant

Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood, will next week personally urge a meeting of Lambeth council’s planning committee to veto a new metal recycling plant that campaigners say will threaten the health of more than 3,500 schoolchildren.

It would also lead to increased numbers of heavy lorries on the streets of Brixton and other parts of Lambeth.

The plans have caused an outcry in West Norwood, where the plant would be sited right next to schools and homes.

Despite this, Lambeth council officers have recommended that the plans should go ahead. Councillors will decide at the planning committee meeting on 13 July.

The site, at the end of Windsor Grove, a narrow cul de sac off West Norwood High Street, was formerly a small car breaker’s yard. It processed 152 tonnes of metal a year.

The proposed new operator of the site, Southwark Metals, originally wanted to up this to 35,000 tonnes a year. After talks with Lambeth council officers, it reduced this to 25,000 tonnes a year – still a 16,447% increase on 152 tonnes.

urban street
The proposed West Norwood site is on a narrow road flanked by housing
building site
The site at the end of Windsor Grove

Campaigners against the yard say the plans are at odds with the council’s climate change pledges and environmental policies.

The West Norwood planning application is linked to another application which would see a waste recycling plant on Shakespeare Road in Herne Hill used for more than 200 new flats.

The planning applications for both sites are in the name of property developer Urban & Provincial, which shares a director with Southwark Metals.

The #ScrapTheYard campaign, supported by Norwood Action Group and the Norwood Forum, says that sites formerly used by Southwark Metals have become residential developments.

It believes “the real driver” for a massive scrap operation in West Norwood is the desire to develop the Shakespeare Road site.

Permission for this can only be granted under Greater London Authority and Lambeth council policies if another site is found to take its tonnage of waste.

metal reprocessing plant
Southwark Metals’ Millwall site
large building

ScrapTheYard says that, while Southwark Metals cites West Norwood as a “replacement site” for the Shakespeare Road development, it has stated that it intends to move work there from its site near Millwall football ground in Lewisham.

The whole area around the Millwall ground is about to undergo massive redevelopment.

Both the West Norwood and the Herne Hill developments would be likely to see cash-strapped Lambeth council receive large sums from the developer under “section 106” agreements.

More than 2,500 Lambeth citizens have submitted written objections to the proposal and more than 5,000 people back a petition opposing it.

As well as the local MP, councillors from both the ruling Labour group and the Green party opposition on the council oppose the plan.

These include Matthew Bennett, deputy leader of the council for planning, investment and new homes, and Green party councillor Pete Elliott, who both represent Gipsy Hill in the South of the borough.

large lorry
Southwark Metals HGV
back of lorry

Rob Andrew, of the Norwood Action Group community organisation, said: “It’s not just that the application strains against just about every applicable policy, but the proposed conditions are toothless or absent – not even a cap on HGV numbers … no independent monitoring to enable proper enforcement of crucial conditions.”

More opposition comes from Jemima Hartshorn, founder of Mums for Lungs, which began life in Brixton.

She said: “Air pollution from transport and construction has hugely damaging health impacts on everyone, but especially children.

“This development is planned for the back of a primary school and in close proximity to other schools, nurseries and residential homes.

“We sincerely hope these plans will not go ahead, but we also call on the Mayor of London and government to ensure through legislation that children across the country are protected from irresponsible developers.”

Two schools are actually next to the site at Windsor Grove and there are another five within a half-mile radius – in all, seven schools with more than 3,500 children.

A further 21 schools with 14,864 pupils are within a one-mile radius of the site.

Campaigners say that the yard would also obliterate a local site of importance for nature conservation (SINC).

urban traffic
West Norwood High Street near the junction with Windsor Grove – the road is already congested and used by HGVs serving builders’ yards as well as buses serving Brixton

Their other concerns include:

  • Approximately 150 daily vehicle movements through local streets, five and a half days a week – “a staggering 40,000 trips each year”. Initially, Southwark Metals stated that 65% of these would be by HGVs, but, with no clear explanation, now says the proportion of HGVs will be 34%
  • The proposal will affect the whole of Lambeth and surrounding boroughs, particularly Southwark, as well as Lewisham and Croydon. Croydon council has formally told Lambeth that it opposes the development
  • Most of the daily site traffic will come via three routes, all of which are already heavily congested:
    Kennington / Brixton / Streatham (A23) – an “air quality focus zone”
    Camberwell / Herne Hill / Tulse Hill or Croxted Road
    Peckham / East Dulwich / South Circular
  • The proposed site tonnage cannot be enforced
  • The applicants say that trucks will limited to 38-tonne size, but bigger trucks cannot be prevented
  • Massive trucks on narrow and crowded suburban roads pose a safety risk, especially for schoolchildren and cyclists

The council officers’ report is 54,000-words long and contains details of several conditions that would be imposed on the site if the council approves the application. It can be downloaded from the council website.

The meeting of the planning sub-committee, which begins at 7pm on 13 July, will be streamed online. Details on the council website.

#ScrapTheYard campaign

More on the campaign:

What's your opinion?