Citizens must decide the incinerator case

Thursday, 7th July

Edmonton incinerator c2

Singing protesters angry over the building of a new waste-burning incinerator in Edmonton brought a waste authority meeting to a standstill.

• IN your report (Singing protesters halt waste authority meeting, June 30), the North London Waste Authority describes itself as “a democratic organisation made up of councillors who have recently been elected”.

But no one votes for the 14 NLWA members and the recently-elected councillors are unlikely to be experts in waste, health, climate change, or the risk of stranded assets.

Although not necessarily well informed, these few individuals are making a waste management decision that will affect many for decades to come by agreeing the construction of a new waste incinerator in Edmonton, one of the UK’s most deprived areas.

The chair of NLWA, Clyde Loakes, who has held his post for 14 years, is assumed to have the expert knowledge. He also happens to be a non-executive director of LondonEnergy Limited, a private company wholly owned by NLWA.

It is not unreasonable for north London residents to be concerned about the control wielded by one person over a decision that affects their wellbeing and finances, as well as planetary health.

Their unease seems sensible given that the decision is based on misinformation and outdated data, as highlighted in the letter, (Opposing the Edmonton incinerator plan, June 30). But NLWA is trapped in its historic decision and lacks the courage to act on new evidence.

There is a solution. We need a different, a more democratic, way of making decisions, one that involves people who will be impacted by the policy.

We need an independently-run citizens’ assembly, an open-minded process, ideal for finding solutions to controversial issues.

Citizens’ assemblies are increasingly being used all over the world at the local and national levels to put people at the heart of understanding what the challenges are and how best to build solutions. They have proved themselves up to the task.

It is time to commission a citizens’ assembly: a group of everyday people who are randomly selected (like a jury) to reflect the diverse population of the seven boroughs.

This assembly will listen to wide-ranging evidence, including from independent experts, as well as people who are and would be affected.

Together they will weigh up the pros, cons, and trade-offs and make informed decisions for the benefit of all.

People should not have to protest. We should be an active part of making the decisions that we live with. Time to decide together.


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