Life in the noisy neighbourhood that constantly stinks as waste incinerators and illegal raves compete to cause most nuisance

When you ask most people what London borough they live in, they can usually respond with a short and distinct answer. However, that’s not always the case for those living on borough boundaries. This is often the case for those living in the Beddington Lane community, who live mainly within Sutton. However, cross the tram track or move one road down, and you could find yourself in either neighbouring Merton or Sutton.

For reasons unbeknownst to many, this borderland community has become a home to a vast industrial estate in recent years. Among the many depots and warehouses, one industrial site stands above the rest in the way it dominates its surroundings.

The Beddington incinerator, otherwise known as the Beddington Energy Recovery Facility (ERF) billows smoke from its tall chimneys, and often carries the smell of burning waste around the vicinity. This incinerator has helped Beddington achieve the title of having the most energy burnt from waste plants on one road in Western Europe.

Read more:The South London estate where residents shrug off its bad reputation and say it is like living on Coronation Street

The Viridor incinerator
The Viridor ERF plant experienced a power outage on Tuesday this week, causing acrid smoke to billow across the area
(Image: Harrison Galliven)

Earlier this week, the incinerator’s owners Viridor admitted that a power outage at their plant caused acrid smoke to smoulder for more than 24 hours. While Viridor hold the outage was the fault of a ‘UK Power Network Fault’, they did temporarily pause waste processing.

Residents across Beddington, and in places as far as Sutton and Hackbridge, complained of smelling burning plastic for hours after the incident. One of those residents was Julie McCormack, who lives opposite the plant in the Elberon Avenue cul-de-sac.

Speaking to the local democracy reporting service (LDRS) she said: “The smell all depends on which way the winds are blowing. They say they open the vent for an hour a day, it’s not open for an hour, they’re lying. They leave it open all day. It smokes like that all day.

“I take no notice of it now because it’s there, but when a new person drives up the lane, they say it’s very smelly. I got so used to the smell and the noise going all day, it’s just a part of Beddington Lane. It shouldn’t be like that, though.”

“Viridor sends out an occasional newsletter, but that’s it, I just keep to myself. Another thing about the plant, and the landfill site next to it, is that it invites flies, birds and rats. That’s why I just close my windows.”

Julie also spoke of the damage that the constant flow of HGV traffic does to the local area and the lack of council response to it. She said: “The council doesn’t even clean the road, either. If you travel the whole length of the road, you’ll see the grass isn’t cut back, there’s rubbish from the lorries. This time of year also means there will be a lot of mud from the workers and lorries going in and out.”

Part of the Beddington industrial estate
Residents who live opposite the industrial park said the illegal raves started at 11pm and didn’t finish till 6am
(Image: Harrison Galliven)

The incinerator was not the only challenge residents faced living opposite the Beddington Lane industrial estate. A number of illegal raves also took place in the empty warehouses over the road in the main estate; these caused a lot of anger in the nearby community who were in earshot.

Julie said: “We called the police and one officer came along. What was he going to do against thousands? You could hear it all night. It starts at 11pm and ends at 6am. Can you imagine trying to sleep through that? I thought I might as well go and join them at that point.

“They come along, double-parked, on our drives. They came down, they were noisy, disrespectful. They left glass everywhere. I called the council, environmental health, police and none of them could do anything. The rubbish was disgusting. My elderly neighbour cleans up after them. He puts his hi-vis on and cleans up, that’s how bad it’s got. He shouldn’t be doing that, he pays his council tax.”

Fellow Elberon Avenue resident, Sonal Singh, echoed Julie’s concerns over the summer raves. She told the LDRS: “The area is fine, but there were raves in the warehouse opposite. That was awful. They parked everywhere and one of our neighbours is elderly, and we couldn’t get an ambulance down the road for her because of the parking. They blocked everything.”

She added: “There’s also no parks apart from Beddington Park, but that’s down the other end. I thought Viridor were going to create a nature reserve down here on the open land but I doubt it will ever materialise. We’ll see how it goes because there is a lot of space around here, they need to use it.”

Residents in the far north of Beddington Lane also spoke of their feelings of distance from the main Beddington village, which lies at the Southern other end of the road. They spoke of how Beddington feels like two separate communities, and that the village is far more catered to with amenities.

Julie said: “Beddington Village, up the top of the road, gets everything. They’ve got the schools etc, but down here we are left alone. We live on the border of Sutton, Croydon and Merton. When you go over the tram line, you’re in Merton. We have a Croydon postcode, but we pay our taxes to Sutton.

“Our insurance is high as a result of this, especially because Croydon’s a blacklisted borough with the number of police callouts they get. This has been going on for years, why don’t they just change our postcode, they do it in other places.”

The Beddington Lane tram stop
The nearby Beddington Lane tram stop, which also acts as a border between Sutton and Merton
(Image: Harrison Galliven)

Despite this, all residents agree that being in the crossroads between boroughs means that it is well served by local transport. Liz Kyffin, of Therapia Lane, told the LDRS: “The trams take you both ways into London, into Wimbledon or up to East Croydon for anything you need.

“The 455 bus is direct to Beddington village, but not very frequent. The timings aren’t great and I try not to rely on the buses because I’ve waited over an hour for them before. I usually just walk up there to get to Beddington Park Academy, where I work.”

Liz added: “The people around here are nice, I’ve never had any problems or trouble and most of the time it’s quiet. The kids come out and play on the road on the weekend, because there’s no traffic. Midweek, I’ll only let them go out after half six.”

Colin Bright, who lives just a few doors down from Liz, echoed this appreciation for the area’s peaceful side. He moved to work in the area after leaving school and bought his current house on Therapia lane soon after.

He said: “I’ll give this road its due, it’s got to be the quietest road in the area. However, when we first came here, there was no ASDA or industrial areas. It was all green space, you felt like you were in the country.”

Despite this, Colin shared his concerns about what he saw as the council’s wasted expenses. He said: “They spent £200,000 on the pavement on the other side of the road that doesn’t go anywhere. I’ve never seen anyone use it, and most of it is overgrown now as well.

“There’s a lot of rubbish all around from HGVs. We get a road sweeper once in a while, but that’s it. We pay all that council tax and what for. At the end of the day, we’re only 12 houses and a couple down the road, and they don’t really give a monkeys about us.”

The nearby Beddington village conservation area
Residents complain that Beddington village has better amenities than those down the other end of Beddington Lane
(Image: Harrison Galliven)

When approached for comment, a representative from Viridor said: “A fault on the electricity network resulted in the Beddington ERF coming offline. Waste feeding stopped immediately, the Environment Agency have been informed and Viridor is conducting investigations. The facility has now been reconnected and the ERF is undergoing the restart process in accordance with the environmental permit.

“When a power fault interrupts the Beddington ERF’s electrical connection the facility is designed to safely adjust to the operating conditions and, where necessary, bring the processing equipment offline. A full investigation is underway to determine the sequence of events and what can be done to prevent re-occurrence.”

Councillor Barry Lewis, Chair of the Environment and Sustainable Transport Committee, said:“I share the concerns of local residents and councillors about the impact of the power cut on the local area. The council has demanded a meeting with Viridor and the Environment Agency to establish the facts so that we can inform our residents as to exactly what happened and the measures being put in place to ensure this never happens again.”

Independent Councillor for Beddington, Nick Mattey, said: The Viridor incinerator was imposed on Beddington without any proper consultation with residents. Residents had to put up with a landfill from 1997 to 2019. Then instead of a promised country park, the council approved an incinerator. The most visible effect of the incinerator are the Lorries that bring in 350,000 tonnes of waste a year and take out 100,000 tonnes of ash. As to the health effects of the millions of tonnes of pollution coming from the chimneys. Time will tell how much damage this does to health. It is a blight on the area and does nothing for people’s quality of life.

London 365 – Beddington

Colin Bright outside his home on Therapia Lane

MyLondon visited Beddington Lane, on the Sutton and Merton border, as part of our London365 project, where our reporters will be visiting a different part of the city every day in 2023.

Ever wondered what it’s like to live in the part of London furthest from a Tube station? Or in the shadow of one of the world’s busiest airports? How is gentrification impacting some of London’s neighbourhoods hardest hit by the cost of living crisis?

From Brent to Bromley, Hillingdon to Havering, and everywhere in between, the MyLondon team will explore the biggest issues facing Londoners, while celebrating every part of the city this year.

Where should we go next? Email To see all the other neighbourhoods we have visited in 2023, click here.

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My London – Sutton