A council leader has become the first to call for a review of plans to build a larger waste-burning incinerator in North London, citing concerns over pollution.

Haringey Council leader Cllr Peray Ahmet wrote this week to North London Waste Authority (NLWA) asking it to consider a “pause and review” of the Edmonton incinerator rebuild to see “whether more can be done to reduce its environmental impact”.

It makes Haringey the first of the seven North London boroughs that are funding the new incinerator to ask NLWA for a review of the £1.2billion project.

The move comes ahead of a crunch NLWA meeting on December 16, where members are set to vote on whether to award a construction contract for the scheme, which is planned for Edmonton Eco Park in Advent Way, beside the River Lea.

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Once complete the new incinerator – just like the existing facility – will burn waste from Enfield, Barnet, Haringey, Camden, Waltham Forest, Hackney and Islington boroughs. NLWA claims it will cut carbon emissions compared to the current plant, which was built in 1969, and divert waste from landfill.

However, campaigners claim the planned incinerator is far bigger than will be necessary given North London’s targets for boosting recycling, and have been calling on NLWA to consider greener alternatives, warning the new plant will release hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

In a letter to NLWA dated 30th November, Cllr Ahmet warned there were still “significant levels of community concern” about the plant and said: “Despite reassurances, residents and councillors are very worried about the air pollution from the new incinerator, which will be a significantly larger plant than the current one.

“Our community also wants to do more recycling and feels the size of the incinerator will mean there is an incentive to produce more waste in order to feed the associated district energy network.”

Enfield Independent: Demonstrators protest against the incinerator plans at the march on Saturday (credit: Extinction Rebellion

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Cllr Ahmet, who took the helm at Haringey Civic Centre in May, called for carbon capture technology to be fitted to the Edmonton plant earlier, to reduce emissions. She added: “Before members of the NLWA take a decision on the procurement, it is vital that the authority is absolutely clear that the proposal is the best way to dispose of waste in North London and the environmental concerns of residents have been properly and fully taken into account.”

Cllr Ahmet’s intervention adds to growing pressure on NLWA to pause plans for the rebuild. Campaigners have held a number of protests against the scheme in recent months, including a march along the North Circular that brought traffic to a standstill.

Residents in five boroughs, including Enfield, Barnet, Waltham Forest and Islington, are now holding a council tax strike to protest against the incinerator plans. Eleven residents have stopped paying a portion of their monthly bill – most withholding £10 per month – in a bid to force a rethink of the project.

NLWA chair Clyde Loakes, who is also a councillor and deputy leader of Waltham Forest Council, claimed in response that pausing the incinerator scheme “would undermine our efforts to tackle the climate emergency”.

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Cllr Loakes added: “Our investment in [Edmonton] Eco Park is a crucial part of our sustainable plan to produce less waste and recycle more. We’re doing everything we can to achieve this, including building London’s biggest new recycling facilities and tackling the most challenging materials like mattresses and polystyrene. There is absolutely no incentive for boroughs to produce more rubbish.”

The NLWA chair said the authority considers all the evidence and listens to communities, adding that the plant would “use the most advanced emissions control technology of any UK facility, making it the cleanest and safest in the country”.

Responding to the letter from Cllr Ahmet, NLWA chair Clyde Loakes said: “I can confirm that NLWA has received a letter asking us to consider reviewing the project and consider whether we can do more to reduce its environmental impact. We are working through the issues raised in the letter and will provide a detailed response in due course.
“In the meantime, I would like to reiterate that the existing plant is the oldest in Europe and needs to be replaced urgently. The project is an important part of all our boroughs’ drive to cut carbon emissions and we’re accelerating our plan for carbon capture and storage as part of the North London Heat and Power Project.
“We have designed the facility flexibly to encourage people to recycle more, so it will not compete with higher recycling rates or create demand for rubbish. It will also improve air quality by using the most advanced pollution controls available. We have ensured that all evidence and information has been thoroughly reviewed by experts, and the issues raised by residents and councillors are being continually considered by our members and addressed.
“Any delay would jeopardise the environmentally responsible service we provide for all North London boroughs and inevitably make waste management services much more expensive for the environment, councils and council taxpayers.”