Contract to build new Edmonton incinerator agreed

Councillors defy protests and demands from local MPs to pause incinerator project, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

How the new Edmonton incinerator will look
How the new Edmonton incinerator will look

North London Waste Authority (NLWA) has voted to approve a construction deal for a new, larger waste incinerator in Edmonton.

The contract for the facility – set to be around a third bigger than the current incinerator at Edmonton Eco Park in Advent Way, beside the River Lea – will be handed to Spanish conglomerate Acciona as a result of Thursday’s vote.

Construction work is now due to begin by mid-2022, with work to prepare the site having been finished earlier this year.

It comes despite a recent call from MPs to halt the expansion of new waste incineration plants to protect people’s health and guard against climate change.

Environmental campaigners have also piled pressure on NLWA to pause and review the project and to consider more environmentally-friendly alternatives, with multiple demonstrations held across North London in recent months, including a blockade of Edmonton Eco Park this week. Opponents warn the plant will pump out hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide and other air pollutants.

The new incinerator, which won planning approval in 2017, is designed to replace an existing plant built in 1969. The larger facility will be capable of burning 700,000 tonnes of North London’s waste every year.

The key vote to sign a construction deal took place during a meeting of the NLWA board, which is formed of 14 councillors from Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest boroughs.

Campaigners protest against the Edmonton incinerator rebuild outside the NLWA meeting venue in Camden
Campaigners protest against the Edmonton incinerator rebuild outside the NLWA board meeting venue in Camden

In a report published on Tuesday, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Air Pollution called for a moratorium on new incinerators, warning capacity was expanding “too quickly” and raising concerns over the release of carbon dioxide emissions, which contribute to climate change, and the release of ultrafine particles, which it deems a “significant health hazard”.

North London parliamentarians, including Edmonton MP Kate Osamor, North Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn, Chingford and Woodford MP Iain Duncan Smith, and Hornsey and Wood Green MP Catherine West, have also called for the incinerator rebuild to be paused.

But NLWA has repeatedly resisted these demands, with chair Clyde Loakes claiming the new plant – part of the £1.2billion North London Heat and Power Project, which also includes new recycling facilities at Edmonton Eco Park – will be the safest and cleanest in the UK thanks to emissions controls designed to cut pollution.

Speaking during deputations to the meeting on Thursday, a range of opponents criticised the incinerator rebuild and urged NLWA members to rethink their plans.

In a pre-recorded video, Olivia Eken, from Enfield Climate Action Forum, said: “Expanding the incinerator at such a crucial time in the climate crisis will not only plunge Edmonton into a state of low recycling rates and toxic air, but also have detrimental health issues in its residents.”

Warning over the scheme’s impact on climate change, Dr Edward Tranah, who works at North Middlesex Hospital, called on NLWA to boost recycling rates to avoid burning waste.

Dr Rembrandt Koppelaar, a researcher who writes about the future of energy and the circular economy, claimed the incinerator contract would “waste at least £150m of taxpayers’ money” and called on NLWA to invest in alternative technology that can increase plastic recycling.

Professor Vyvyan Howard, a specialist in toxicology, warned waste incineration releases particulate matter that can be damaging to health.

Addressing the concerns over emissions, NLWA managing director Martin Capstick said the plant would be the first in the UK to use “selective catalytic reduction” to control nitrous oxides and a “combined wet-dry scrubber system” to reduce particulates, acid gases and other emissions.

Cllr Loakes pointed out that the authority also plans to build a household waste recycling facility at Edmonton Eco Park to help boost recycling. He argued against exporting waste outside London, telling councillors “the rest of the country did not want our waste being exported to them”.

The vote to award the contract was not unanimous, however. Isidoros Diakides, a councillor in Haringey, voted against, citing concerns over value for money. Haringey’s deputy leader Mike Hakata also abstained, after expressing similar concerns over procurement. 

The remaining twelve councillors sitting on the board of NLWA – two from each of the six other boroughs – voted in favour of the deal with Acciona.