Waltham Forest Echo

Waltham Forest Echo

Waste authority chair under fire over incinerator plans

Waltham Forest Council deputy leader Clyde Loakes rebuffs calls to resign as chair of North London Waste Authority, reports James Cracknell Campaigners [...]

Hero for Waste authority chair under fire over incinerator plans
The plans for the new incinerator and (inset) NLWA chair Clyde Loakes

Waltham Forest Council deputy leader Clyde Loakes rebuffs calls to resign as chair of North London Waste Authority, reports James Cracknell

Campaigners against a new incinerator in the Lea Valley called for the chair of North London Waste Authority (NLWA) to resign during a series of passionate speeches at the body’s annual general meeting.

Environmental activists, as well as a school teacher and a hospital doctor, addressed the meeting last Thursday to express their concerns over the £1.2billion North London Heat and Power Project, the official name of the new incinerator development at Edmonton Eco Park, just over the border from Waltham Forest, in Enfield.

Residents in Chingford have long raised concerns over high levels of air pollution in the area, which they say is made worse by living “downwind” of the existing Edmonton incinerator.

But NLWA chair Clyde Loakes, who is also deputy leader of Waltham Forest Council, denied councillors who sit on the waste authority a chance to debate the project at the meeting and told residents and campaigners who had spoken that he would address their points “in writing afterwards”.

Although plans for the incinerator are well advanced and preparation work has begun, campaigners argue the project should be “paused and reviewed” to consider its impact on carbon emissions.

Concerns have been rising over the environmental impact of the scheme, which will be significantly larger than the current facility and burn waste collected from homes in seven London boroughs. Many of the local councils that form part of NLWA have declared climate emergencies in the years since the new incinerator won planning permission in 2017, including Waltham Forest Council.

There are also long-running concerns over the impact of waste incineration on the health of people who live in its vicinity. Earlier this year air pollution was cited by a coroner as a “material” factor in the death of a nine-year-old Lewisham girl – the first time this has happened in the UK.

But Cllr Loakes has repeatedly refused to reconsider the plans for the new Edmonton incinerator, arguing it is the best way to dispose of North London’s waste, with landfill said to have a far worse environmental impact.

Delia Mattis, from Enfield Black Lives Matter, said: “Our petition gained over 1,700 signatures in support of pausing and reviewing the incinerator plans. Give that the NLWA consultation only garnered 72 responses in the first stage, 123 in the second, and ended in 2015, we argue our petition has more legitimacy.

“The Edmonton population is treated with contempt by this authority […] This is an area of great poverty and deprivation, and air pollution from the North Circular. No extra effort was made to engage with them. You simply didn’t care.”

She pointed to research by Greenpeace showing incinerators were three times more likely to be built in deprived areas, which themselves are more likely to have a racially diverse population. She also highlighted a proposed incinerator in Cambridgeshire that was refused planning permission “because of the middle class residents there”.

Delia was one of several speakers who demanded Cllr Loakes stand down from his role as NWLA chair, calling him “rude and disrespectful” in the way he has handled critics of the incinerator.

Helen Karamalakis, an Edmonton resident and school teacher, was another speaker. She said: “I can see the [incinerator] chimney from my bedroom window, but when the [NLWA] consultation was carried out I had no idea, I didn’t know about it until 2020.

“I know it is difficult to let go of our old ways, but it [incineration] is old technology. Lots of things used to be deemed acceptable; smoking indoors was common before, as was spanking children. These things are unacceptable now.”

Edward Tranah, a doctor at North Middlesex Hospital, also described the new incinerator as a “slap in the face for local people” and said his colleagues were unaware of the project.

Endlebury ward councillor Emma Best said she was addressing the meeting on behalf of the Conservative Party in Chingford, including local MP Iain Duncan Smith, and that it was “rare we find ourselves on the same side as Sadiq Khan and Jeremy Corbyn, which shows the strength of opposition”.

Cllr Best, who was recently elected to the London Assembly, asked Cllr Loakes: “Why are you continuing to ignore the voices of so many? Why are councillors not asking any questions of the deputations; how can you not have any questions for a doctor at North Middlesex Hospital?

“The costs of this project have spiralled from £650million to £1.2billion. We need a value-for-money review before proceeding with it.”

After all the speakers had spoken, Cllr Loakes read out a prepared statement at the meeting and said: “I would like to thank all the groups and individuals for making deputations to the authority today. We can recognise the sincerity with which all the speeches have been made. I can promise that all members have considered these important matters over many years when planning for the North London Heat and Power Project.

“The project aligns with our efforts to protect the environment, public health, and tackle the climate emergency. North London’s boroughs have proud records on these issues and the approach of NLWA is entirely in keeping with this. Many of the points raised today have been addressed in previous meetings.”

Cllr Loakes championed NLWA’s plans to build a public recycling centre as well as a “resource recovery facility” at Edmonton Eco Park and, regarding the incinerator, said: “Our existing energy-from-waste plant is among the oldest in Europe. We need to build a modern replacement facility now or risk residents’ waste being sent to landfill.”