Singing protestors shut down meeting in fury at incinerator rebuild

Protestors hoped to stop Waltham Forest Council’s deputy leader from being elected chair for the 14th time
By Local Democracy Reporter Josh Mellor

Singing protestors pursued members into a lift (credit: LDRS)
Singing protestors pursued members into a lift (credit: LDRS)

Singing protestors furious about plans to rebuild the Edmonton Incinerator shut down a meeting of north London’s waste authority yesterday.

The North London Waste Authority (NLWA) has been subject to a long-running campaign over its £1.2billion plan to rebuild and expand the Edmonton Incinerator near Chingford

The current incinerator is the oldest of its kind in the UK and in increasingly poor condition, with a five-month “outage” of one of its turbines last year causing a £5.5million loss in productivity.

Meeting for the first time since May’s local elections yesterday, the waste authority’s 14 members planned to elect their chair and vice-chair, discuss the past year and scrutinise waste reduction plans.

However, around 20 protestors refused to stop singing and chanting lyrics such as “burning waste is killing me”, eventually forcing the meeting to be held in private.

Credit: LDRS

The campaigners began the noisy protest when it became clear that NLWA members intended to re-elect Waltham Forest’s deputy leader Clyde Loakes as chair for the 14th year.

Dorothea Hackman, of Extinction Rebellion Camden, spoke at the meeting to argue that ten years as chair should be the “natural limit” to avoid the authority becoming “wedded” to past decisions and unable to listen to “legitimate and evidenced objections”.

She added: “The Edmonton incinerator might have seemed like a good idea in 2015, 2016 and possibly even 2017, but now in 2022 it is not a good idea and we need you to hear this.

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“There are issues of misrepresentation about emissions and comparisons that say that burning plastic in incinerators is somehow better than landfill – which it isn’t.

“We are in a position with the climate emergency where we want to stop the manufacture of plastics altogether – you should not be building an incinerator but a proper waste recycling facility.”

During a short debate, Haringey councillor Isidoros Diakides appeared open to a review of the rules around NLWA’s leadership but spoke positively of Cllr Loakes’s “many years of dedicated service”.

The protest group then began singing lyrics such as “stop pause and review, do not elect Clyde Loakes, take it over” until the meeting was briefly adjourned.

Minutes later, members attempted to re-enter the meeting room but were unable to stop the protestors, led by a singer called Marcus, from following them back in.

The meeting eventually resumed in a private room of the Camden Council office building, where Cllr Loakes was elected chair and Islington’s Rowena Champion and Hackney’s Mete Coban were elected as vice-chairs.

Following the meeting an NLWA spokesperson said: “NLWA has always welcomed and encouraged residents to make deputations at our meetings, however shutting down a meeting and preventing democratic processes calls into question the real motives of protestors.”

The seven boroughs represented by the NLWA – Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest – have a combined household recycling rate of 28.7%, rising only 0.2% since last year.

During the public part of the meeting, Haringey’s Mike Hakata asked whether the authority was “missing a trick” by not investing in technology that could sort more recyling from regular household waste.

Cllr Loakes accepted North London is “falling behind” with recycling rates but said the responsibility to encourage residents “starts in our respective boroughs”.

He added that Government plans for a deposit return scheme, which would see people pay a small deposit for drinks that they receive back when they recycle the bottle or can, had been “delayed, delayed, delayed”.

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