Call for assessment of new incinerator impact rejected

A contract to build the controversial new facility in Edmonton was signed this week, reports Simon Allin

The new energy-from-waste (EFW) incinerator in Edmonton will generate electricity as well as burn waste from seven London boroughs
The new, larger incinerator in Edmonton will generate electricity as well as burning waste from seven London boroughs

Councillors in Enfield have rejected calls for an independent assessment of the risks posed to the borough by a new, larger Edmonton incinerator.

During an extraordinary council meeting on Wednesday, members of the Labour administration refused to back opposition calls for the assessment and claimed not building the facility would be worse for the borough’s finances, health and the environment.

On Monday, North London Waste Authority (NLWA) signed a deal with Spanish conglomerate Acciona to build the new waste-burning plant in Advent Way, beside the River Lea. The deal came despite a wave of protests against the rebuild and a call from MPs to halt the expansion of new waste incineration plants.

NLWA, which is made up of seven London boroughs including Enfield, claims the new plant – part of the North London Heat and Power Project, which also includes new recycling facilities at Edmonton Eco Park – will produce lower emissions than the current incinerator and divert waste from landfill.

But Green Party councillor Charith Gunawardena, who is also a member of the independent Community First group on the council, tabled a motion calling on the authority to complete “an independent assessment of the expanded incinerator and its impact on Enfield”. His motion also called on the council to withdraw its support for the deal with Acciona until the assessment was carried out, as he had expected the meeting to be held before the contract was signed.

Derek Levy, an independent councillor and Community First member, spoke on behalf of his colleague, who was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting. He said the incinerator would have a heavy social, environmental and economic impact “on the council and the residents of Enfield – Edmonton specifically – for decades to come”.

Cllr Levy claimed carbon capture and storage [CCS] technology “intrinsic to the project” had not been costed, which would present “significant financial risks” on top of the environmental risks.

The Southgate councillor added: “It is absolutely clear from the evidence that building this new incinerator with a hypothetical, unproven, uncosted plan to retrofit it with CCS in over a decade will hamper the legally mandated emissions-reduction target set by the government.”

Responding to the calls, council leader Nesil Caliskan said the civic centre’s chief finance officer had been “very clear” that the incinerator was a sound plan.

She added: “The biggest financial risk to this local authority is not having a plan as to what we do with waste, because the government has been very clear in its legislation that the cost of taking away our rubbish is about to rocket even more than it currently has.”

The leader pointed out that a recycling facility would also be built at Edmonton Eco Park and said the incinerator would replace an inefficient, out-of-date facility that is less environmentally friendly.

Her Labour colleague Ergin Erbil, who represents Edmonton Green, said the new incinerator “will mean we are closer to carbon capture technology by 2030, we are closer to our net zero goals, and we are proactively filtering toxic air from the burned waste with new filtration systems”.

He added: “Pausing this new facility will mean continued air pollution without filters and without steps closer to carbon capture technology.”

The Conservative group backed the Community First call for the risk assessment to be carried out.

Tory leader Joanne Laban said she did not believe the scheme represented good value for money, warning that technology had changed and the costs had increased since the initial plans were drawn up.

Cllr Laban added: “ The plan to increase the capacity of the incinerator will mean it will be three times too large for North London’s needs. Enlarging the incinerator will disincentivize recycling and mean that North London will continue to miss recycling targets, potentially.”

After the debate, the Conservatives, Community First and Labour’s Yasemin Brett voted in favour of Cllr Gunawardena’s motion. The remaining Labour councillors voted against, with the exception of Guney Dogan, who abstained.

Last week, campaign groups opposing the incinerator vowed to fight on, with legal avenues now being explored.