Roadblock protest as plan for new waste-burning incinerator gets green light

Thursday, 23rd December 2021 — By Anna Lamche and Richard Osley

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The protest next to the Crowndale Centre

DEMONSTRATORS blocked the roads in Camden Town in a final appeal for a halt on a new waste-burning incinerator.

The controversial project is being commissioned on the orders of the North London Waste Authority (NLWA), which is made up of seven boroughs.

Members of the authority gathered at the Crowndale Centre on Thursday afternoon where they voted in favour of pressing ahead with building the plant in Edmonton – an expansion of an existing incinerator.

The scheme has seen divisions emerge even among different Labour-controlled boroughs. Haringey wanted a “pause and review” strategy to consider the environmental objections again.

But other councils including Camden and Islington wanted to move forward with its construction.

The NLWA awarded Spanish construction company Acciona a contract for the redevelopment. The £1billion plant will be capable of burning 700,000 tonnes of waste a year.

Campaigners outside could be seen banging drums and holding yellow Extinction Rebellion banners across the road.

Six police vans were on the scene with dozens of officers moving through the crowd.

Overseeing rubbish disposal for seven north London boroughs, the NLWA’s board consists of two councillors from each borough, with Camden represented by environment chief Adam Harrison and Councillor Richard Olszewski, the borough’s head of finance.

Aside from two Conservative representatives from Barnet, the NLWA is made up of Labour councillors.

In the meeting, 10 impassioned deputations were delivered by a youth group, doctors, climate and refuse specialists, a Green councillor and Edmonton’s MP Kate Osamor.

Opponents said the burner posed a risk to human health due to “ultrafine” particles. They also said the authorities should be concentrating on the importance of boosting recycling rates.

Nick Earl, one contributor calling for a pause and review of the scheme, said: “The eyes of London are upon you. Do the right thing.

“The health of London is in your hands.”

Speaking to the chamber, NLWA chair Clyde Loakes acknowl­edged the significance of their decision. “This is a massive decision that sits before us and probably a unique one in our lives,” he said, but stressed that the authority has a “duty to deal with residual waste”.

A similar note was struck by many councillors in the room who said they had a responsibility to deal with the refuse.

The only councillor to voice his disapproval of the plan was Haringey’s Isidoros Diakides, who said he was “worried about costs down the road” and encouraged the authority to “defer a decision”.

The authority, however, voted in favour of constructing the new incinerator.

This key vote came in the same week that the all-parliamentary group on air pollution released a report revealing the “significant health hazard” posed by burning waste.

The report found that the “ultrafine particulates” released from incinerators “are very damaging to human health”.

In the report, MPs from across the political divide said “local authorities must take time and think again, in particular when considering the health risks of putting plants in urban locations with dense populations”.

While Islington Council voted for work to get going on the facility, Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn sent in an objection.

“This is very sad – we need less and less incineration, more and more re-using and recycling,” he said after the meeting and the scheme’s approval.

“Burning of waste obviously has pollutive effects on the air we all breathe. In north London we have poor rates of recycling and that must improve. Burning is not recycling.”

Cllr Adam Harrison has previously spoken of his support for the new burner’s construction.

“The current facility is 50 years old and on its last legs,” he said in November.

“We do not want to use landfill and we want to recycle as much as we can. It is of course both environmentally and financially beneficial to recycle – but what do we do with what is left? What is most effective is to create energy from this waste using an established technology.”

Cllr Harrison said the new facility would be able to “scrub” fumes of pollutants.

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