Fresh row over Meridian Water environmental impact

Second time that Green Party councillor’s report on Meridian Water has been rejected by council scrutiny panel, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

A computer-generated image of how Meridian Water might look when complete and (inset) Charith Gunawardena
A computer-generated image of how Meridian Water might look when complete and (inset) Green Party councillor Charith Gunawardena

Enfield Council has again been accused of “suppressing” a report that raises concerns over the environmental impact of Meridian Water.

Opposition councillor Charith Gunawardena said it was “completely unacceptable” that the report, written in response to the environmental strategy for the £6billion regeneration scheme, had not been made public.

Cllr Gunawardena, a Green Party councillor for Southgate and a member of the independent Community First group, claimed the report should have been published with the agenda for either the January or February meetings of the environment and climate action scrutiny panel.

In response, a council spokesperson said the report was considered informally at the January meeting, and the panel subsequently decided to take no further action.

Community First accused the council of suppressing a report that raised questions about the environmental impact of its Meridian Water project in June last year. Written by Cllr Gunawardena before he defected from Labour to the Green Party, it was not published despite having the backing of a majority of panel members.

After a new panel was formed for the 2021/22 municipal year, Cllr Gunawardena said it was given the go-ahead to write a new report in response to the council’s Meridian Water environmental strategy.

He said this second report raised serious concerns about the quantity and quality of the parkland being planned for Meridian Water, as well as a lack of access to the new parks for existing Edmonton residents.

Concerns were also raised about whether the recycling targets were realistic and about the impact of the energy source for the homes, which would come from burning household waste at the nearby incinerator.

The Southgate councillor said he had followed council guidelines “to the letter” when drawing up the report, adding that officers confirmed in December that it was accurate.

Cllr Gunawardena said: “This is the second time that a scrutiny report about the environmental strategy for Meridian Water has been suppressed by the council.

“This is a completely unacceptable way for a council to behave and shows a complete lack of respect for councillors, for the scrutiny function and for residents.”

The January meeting of the environment and climate action scrutiny panel was held “informally” in response to Covid-19 restrictions, and the agenda and reports were not published. During the meeting, the panel expressed its wish for the report to be placed on record with the expectation that it is adopted in the future.

A formal meeting of the panel subsequently took place on 8th February. During the meeting, the four Labour members voted to take no further action on the notes of the previous meeting. After the four opposition members voted against, panel chair Mahmut Aksanoglu used his casting vote to approve the motion to take no further action.

The February session was the last meeting of the panel before local elections take place in May. A new panel formed after the elections is likely to have different members, and Cllr Gunawardena raised doubts the report will be published.

A council spokesperson said: “The environment and climate action scrutiny panel met informally on Tuesday, 11th January. The matter referred to was considered informally at that panel. When the environment and climate action scrutiny panel met formally on Tuesday, 8th February, they received the notes from the informal meeting that took place in January and decided to take no further action.

“The report referred to has never been formally adopted by the panel.”