Last-ditch bid to stop new incinerator

Questions over whether £1.2bn Edmonton scheme is ‘value for money’, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

How the new Edmonton incinerator will look
A vision of wow the new Edmonton incinerator would look if built

Campaign groups and residents have written to Enfield Council expressing “strong opposition” to plans for a new waste incinerator in Edmonton and calling for a review of the controversial scheme.

Opponents of the £1.2billion North London Heat and Power Project (NLHPP) – the official name for the incinerator development – wrote to the council’s chief executive accusing the authority’s leadership of routinely ignoring “compelling” evidence against the scheme.

Organisations including Enfield Over 50s Forum, Enfield Climate Action Forum (EnCaf), Enfield Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion have signed the letter alongside 67 Enfield residents, including Vicki Pite, a former Labour councillor who quit the council last year.

The letter warns they “do not believe the decision to proceed has been made with Enfield residents’ best interests as a priority” and asks how the council is sourcing independent information and applying adequate scrutiny to the project and its governing body, North London Waste Authority (NLWA), which covers seven boroughs. It also asks whether there are financial incentives in place that stand to benefit Enfield Council if the project goes ahead.

The letter adds: “We are confident that some independent research will lead you to the same conclusion as us; that there is real merit for a pause and review of the incinerator expansion.” 

The new Edmonton incinerator was awarded planning permission in 2017. According to the NLWA, the project aligns with environmental policies across the world that seek to reduce landfill and increase recycling, and will slash carbon emissions by 215,000 tonnes per year compared to the output of the current incinerator.

But concerns have been growing over the environmental impact of the scheme and its effect on the health of those who live nearby. At the annual meeting of the NLWA in June, chair Clyde Loakes faced calls from campaigners to resign over his handling of the project.

In their letter to Enfield Council’s chief executive, the campaigners dispute some of the environmental claims made by the scheme’s backers. The letter cites research claiming the new incinerator will emit 700,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year – far higher than the 28,000 tonnes claimed by NLWA.

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It also points out that energy from renewable sources such as wind is increasing, undermining the claim that the incinerator will displace energy produced by fossil fuels.

Preparatory work on the site for the new incinerator at Edmonton Eco Park has recently finished and a tendering process is now taking place for its construction. NLWA has not denied reports that only one bid is currently on the table, with opponents questioning whether there was a competitive bidding process for the project and asking what’s being done to ensure Enfield taxpayers get “value for money”.

Further concerns raised by the campaigners include their claim that incinerators emit “a wealth of dioxins, NOx [nitrogen oxides] and particulate matter which have proven to be damaging to health”.

Because there are six other boroughs involved in the project, Enfield Council could not unilaterally make a decision regarding the future of the new incinerator.

A spokesperson for NLWA pointed out that new recycling facilities were also being built at Edmonton Eco Park and said: “NLHPP is a vital asset for North London. It is providing new flagship facilities to support our aim to increase recycling and will perform an essential service by disposing of non-recyclable waste in a safe and clean way.

“Delaying NLHPP would severely undermine our efforts to tackle the climate emergency. It would deny North London residents state-of-the-art recycling facilities, while local homes and businesses would lose the opportunity to benefit from low-carbon heating and hot water from our new energy recovery facility.

“In addition, North London would lose the opportunity to provide hundreds of apprenticeships for young people and training placements for local residents.”

The spokesperson said the project “creates direct economic benefits to Enfield” and the NLWA estimates that £50million has already been spent with local companies.

“The project also benefits Enfield taxpayers,” they added. “This is because, as well as being the most environmentally responsible solution, it provides the most cost-effective solution for waste disposal, retaining ownership in local authority hands and avoiding pressures which would arise on council tax costs if, instead, North London had to rely on capacity being available in private sector waste facilities.”

Enfield Council did not respond to a request for comment.

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