Councillors in Haringey will not debate a call to withdraw support for the new Edmonton incinerator until after a key decision on the scheme has already been made.

The full council debate on the new waste-burning plant will be held on Wednesday, 21st December 21 – five days after a crunch meeting of North London Waste Authority (NLWA) on Thursday, where members are set to decide whether to hand the incinerator’s construction contract to Spanish firm Acciona.

A political row has now broken out over the timing of the meeting. Liberal Democrat opposition leader Luke Cawley-Harrison claimed Labour had “no plans to oppose the facility”, while Labour council leader Peray Ahmet accused the Lib Dems of “political theatre”.

The new incinerator, planned for Edmonton Eco Park in Advent Way, beside the River Lea, will burn waste from Enfield, Barnet, Haringey, Camden, Waltham Forest, Hackney and Islington boroughs, which together form NLWA.

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Campaigners have piled pressure on both the individual councils and NLWA to pause and review the scheme and consider greener alternatives, warning the new facility will release hundreds of thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide and other pollutants.

But NLWA, which is governed by 14 councillors appointed by the seven boroughs, has so far resisted calls for a rethink, with chair Clyde Loakes claiming that doing so would undermine efforts to tackle the climate emergency. NLWA argues the new plant will release fewer carbon emissions than the current incinerator and divert waste from landfill.

Haringey’s Lib Dems had hoped to debate the controversial incinerator rebuild at a full council meeting on November 22, but accused the Labour group of “filibustering” to avoid discussing their motion. That meeting ended before the motion could be heard.

Read more: Fury as council 'avoids' debate on waste incinerator

The opposition group subsequently called an extraordinary meeting of the full council to debate the incinerator. But although they put forward a list of venues for officers to consider and asked the administration to do the same, the council scheduled the meeting for 21st December.

According to the Lib Dems, the reasons given for the delay included a political meeting for the Labour group on December 15, and the fact that the mayor had a full diary on all evenings up to December 16.

The opposition group also said that an email from a Labour councillor accidentally sent to all councillors “revealed that the administration had not only refused to debate the incinerator in public but had also barred backbenchers from bringing up the subject during a private Labour group meeting”.

Cllr Ahmet wrote to NLWA on November 30 asking it to consider a pause and review of the incinerator rebuild, citing concerns over pollution.

Read more: Council leader calls for 'pause and review' of Edmonton waste incinerator

But Cllr Cawley-Harrison said: “Labour’s refusal to debate the building of an incinerator at every turn clearly shows that they have no plans to oppose the facility. What’s more, they don’t even have either the courage or the basic decency to defend the decision to affected residents.

“It is more obvious than ever that the council leader’s letter […] which was initially welcomed by campaigners, was nothing more than smoke and mirrors – pretending to stand up for our borough in public, while doing everything possible in private to ensure this polluting monstrosity goes ahead.”

Responding to the accusations, Cllr Ahmet said she had made her position clear by writing to the NLWA after listening to residents’ concerns and following “careful consideration of the information available about the new Edmonton plant”.

She added: “The full council meeting requested by the Liberal Democrat group is political theatre – they are well aware that full council is not the decision-making body in this matter. Whenever this debate takes place, its outcome will have absolutely no bearing on the decision taken by NLWA on December 16, because the council legally cannot tell board members what to do.

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“Instead of talking among ourselves on this issue, Haringey Labour has been out in the community engaging with climate activists, experts, and residents in order to truly understand and address local concerns.”

Cllr Ahmet added that her understanding is that there is “no current good alternative for unrecyclable waste disposal other than incineration” and the current plant “needs to be replaced imminently”, but she is pushing for “the most technologically-advanced and environmentally-friendly option available to us”.

Responding to a question about why the meeting was not scheduled for before December 16, a Haringey Council spokesperson said: “We were unable to find a suitable venue that could accommodate the numbers needed in a Covid-safe environment and for the right social distancing measures that would be needed.”