London councils approve Edmonton incinerator for NLWA

5:36 PM December 16, 2021

6:31 PM December 16, 2021

North London councils have voted for the £1.2bn redevelopment of the Edmonton incinerator to go ahead, after resisting pressure to pause and review the scheme.

Campaigners rallied outside the Crowndale Centre on Thursday to try to persuade the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) inside the Camden Council building to U-turn.

However, the decision makers agreed that the contract for construction works would be awarded to Acciona – the only bidder left in the running – meaning that the redevelopment of the waste facility will proceed.

The meeting had been billed as the last opportunity to sway council representatives from Hackney, Islington, Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Waltham Forest to reconsider the scheme, which is part of the North London Heat and Power Project.

Olivia Eken, from Enfield Climate Action Forum Youth, had urged councillors to “grant one last hope” to young people “before it is too late”.

Dr Edward Tranah, of North Middlesex Hospital and Doctors Against the Edmonton Incinerator, told elected representatives: “You have an opportunity right now here today to probably have the biggest impact on the climate that you will ever have in your lifetimes.” 

North London resident Malcolm Stow said the NLWA had played down alternatives to incineration to such an extent that it amounted to “PR ramble”.

Designs for the new energy recovery facility

Designs for the new energy recovery facility

– Credit: NLWA

In response, NLWA chair Cllr Clyde Loakes, from Enfield, called the vote one of the most important in councillors’ lives, describing it as “unique”. 

“We have made this plant last as long as we possibly can, there is no other existing plant, certainly in Europe, that is as old as the one we have,” he said. 

“We have a duty to deal with the waste that is created in north London.” 

Cllr Loakes added: “Residents still do not do the right thing [and recycle properly] so we have a duty to ensure that we provide the facilities to deal with that residual waste in the best possible way.” 

Cllr Satnam Gill, from Islington, called the incinerator rebuild the “best of the worst options available”.  

Cllr Mete Coban, from Hackney, said authorities “cannot pretend residual waste doesn’t exist”, and that “we have a responsibility to deal with waste we do have”.

A protester reinforcing the message with a wheelie bin

A protester reinforcing the message with a wheelie bin

– Credit: Rada Daniell

Prior to the vote legal representatives on behalf of Stop Edmonton Incinerator Now outlined criticisms over the project in a letter to the NLWA.  

Richard Buxton Solicitors cited “high environmental costs of incineration as opposed to other means of treating waste and the overcapacity that a further incinerator will create in London”. 

Requesting further evidence behind the project’s rationale, while also challenging the business case behind the scheme, lawyers also raised concerns over “environmental racism and social injustice inherent in siting a new incinerator in areas of high racial diversity and poverty”. 

The proposed facility in Edmonton will have the capacity to burn 700,000 tonnes of waste, which environmental campaigners estimate could lead to the release of 700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions.  

The NLWA says the new development will generate around 70 megawatts of electricity, enough to power around 127,000 homes – with a capacity of 700,000 tonnes of residual waste.

The authority claims it will cut carbon emissions compared to the current plant, and divert waste from landfill. However critics say alternative, greener schemes haven’t been properly considered, and they claim the planned incinerator is far bigger than will be necessary given north London’s targets for boosting recycling.

Doctors in opposition to the scheme

Doctors in opposition to the scheme

– Credit: Islington Environmental Emergency Alliance

The Edmonton incinerator, referred to as an energy recovery facility by the NLWA, is part of the Ecopark in Enfield.  It burns rubbish to generate electricity. The facility dates back 50 years and is coming towards the end of its operational life.  

The scheme’s redevelopment has been backed by north London councils but Haringey leader Cllr Peray Ahmet recently wrote to the NLWA asking for the scheme to be paused and reviewed.

Critics of the redevelopment include MPs Jeremy Corbyn, Iain Duncan Smith, Catherine West and Kate Osamor.

Those who spoke out against the incinerator at the NLWA meeting included Sydney Charles, Dr Rembrandt Koppelaar, Nick Earl and Professor Vyvyan Howard.

Preparatory construction works have been taking place at the Edmonton site since 2019. Acciona is now expected to sign the contract for further works on January 18.

The procurement vote was passed by 12 to one, with one abstention.

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