Labour finance chief offers enthusiastic backing for new Edmonton waste incinerator

Green request for 'pause and review' rejected as contract is signed

Tuesday, 25th January — By Richard Osley

richard olzewski full council jan 24 Image 2022-01-25 at 01.45.58 (6)

Labour finance chief Councillor Richard Olszewski answers questions from Green councillor Sian Berry

CAMDEN’S finance chief was singing the praises of a plan to build a new waste-burning incinerator in Edmonton last night (Monday) and criticised the idea that the brakes should be put on the project.

Labour councillor Richard Olszewski said opponents to the new plant, which will serve seven London boroughs including Camden, were “late to the party” as a decision had been taken five years ago to redevelop the existing site. Environmental campaigners have warned the burner will pump dangerous emissions into the air and say there should be a focus on raising recycling rates instead.

While Labour councillors in Haringey have said they wanted a new review of the proposal and counterparts in Islington said it was ‘the best worst option’, Cllr Olszewski said he was glad that a final contract had been signed and that it was a “very commendable” project.

The North Waste London Authority voted to press ahead with the expansion just before Christmas. Camden has two representatives on its board: Cllr Olszewski and environment supreme Councillor Adam Harrison.

WATCH: the exchange between Labour’s Richard Olzewski and Sian Berry

Cllr Olszewski told a full council meeting: “I think it’s a very commendable project and will benefit London for years to come and it doesn’t preclude us recycling more.”

Final paperwork was tied up yesterday (Monday) but campaigners, who have already staged roadblock protests and are threatening to hold a council tax payment strike in neighbouring Islington, are trying to raise money for a legal appeal.

The Greens and the Liberal Democrats in Camden have called for objections to be considered again and argue the fact money has already been spent on the site in Edmonton should not stop more scuritiny.

Green councillor Sian Berry used a question and answer session to ask Cllr Olszewski whether their calls had led to any “pause for thought”.

She said: “The cabinet member for finance really ought to know to appreciate the sunk costs fallacy – and in my 20 years in politics and campaigning, I have seen many large projects that were terrible ideas that have been brought back from the brink.”

Cllr Berry, a former co-leader of her party nationally and a London Assembly member, warned that the amount of waste that Camden households were sending to be burned was increasing despite the climate emergency.

”This new larger facility will incentivise more of this,” she said. “It will put up our carbon emissions. It will incentivise waste and we need a whole new strategy – those were the reasons for ‘pause and review’.”

Sian Berry warned that the project is a mistake and will ‘incentivise’ waste burning

Cllr Olszewski said: “This has been being built for three years. You are a bit late to the party here.”

The meeting was told spades were already in the ground and that a sewer diversion had been constructed.

”The project is underway,” Cllr Olszewski said. “You can’t switch it on and off like a light bulb. A ‘pause and review’. What does that mean? That we continue paying people to do nothing and the interest that has to be paid on the money borrowed for it with a delay.”

”This is all a cost for people, for what? For no benefit – when all the different options have been explored at length… I’m glad the contract has been signed and we can get on and finish the project for the benefit of the two million people in north London it serves.”

He added that the new facility would have a new recycling and reuse service, and create heat and power for local neighbourhoods.

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