Councillors have given the nod to a plan that could see a waste plant built in a nature conservation area.

Haringey Council’s cabinet has agreed to include the Pinkham Way site next to the North Circular Road as the borough’s contribution to the North London Waste Plan (NLWP).

The land – a former sewage works and landfill site – has been disused for more than 20 years and has since become home to trees and other forms of wildlife.

In October, the council’s regulatory committee called for Pinkham Way to be removed from the list of sites earmarked for a possible waste plant.

But on Tuesday, cabinet members chose to press ahead with the plans following a heated exchange between campaigners from the Pinkham Way Alliance (PWA), council officers and council leader Cllr Joseph Ejiofor.

PWA chairman Stephen Brice claimed planning officers had tried to redesignate the site as locally significant industrial land “through the back door”.

He added that the cabinet report contained “no mention” of a submission from Natural England.

Mr Brice said: “It comments that the Pinkham Way site ‘has formed a rich, bioviverse mix of habitats which will be a loss to Haringey and more widely to London itself, if developed’.”

He claimed this put it on a par with metropolitan sites that are “of the highest priority for protection”.

The PWA chairman said: “As employment land, it has not given one minute of employment in the 19 years it has been employment land. There is not a word of this in any of the reports.”

Evelyn Ryan, also of the PWA, said: “You are the only borough which is prepared to give away a grade one site of importance for nature conservation on no grounds whatsoever.”

She claimed the “heavily contaminated land” had been deemed unsuitable for employment by inspectors.

But Emma Williamson, the council’s assistant director of planning, said the PWA representatives were “selectively quoting” from an inspector’s report and that it was an employment site.

She said: “It is also a site of importance for nature conservation. We don’t believe those two uses together can’t be compatible.

“The site is not currently open space, the land is contaminated.

“In terms of the viability reports, those reports that have been quoted were in relation to if there had been a new employment use being put forward on the site.

“It is not relevant in this particular instance, because it would be the waste authority that was bringing forward a waste use for the site, so it is not correct to quote it in that particular way.”

Cllr Ejiofor said the NLWP was in line with national planning guidance and the London Plan.

He said: “I can accept how passionate you are but waste has to be recycled somewhere. The alternative is that we do it behind people’s houses in Tottenham.”

Drawn up in partnership with six other boroughs – Camden, Hackney, Islington, Enfield, Barnet and Waltham Forest – the NLWP aims to ensure North London has enough space to manage the waste it produces up to 2035.

It identifies land that would be suitable for managing the waste generated in North London, with other sites earmarked in Enfield, Barnet, Waltham Forest and Hackney.

Cabinet’s decision does not mean a waste plant will definitely be built at the site, and any proposals to build a plant at Pinkham Way would have to be approved by the council’s planning committee.

If approved by the full council on Thursday, January 31, the waste plan will go out to a public consultation.