Government to scrutinise north London incinerator plan, says Michael Gove

Michael Gove and an illustration of the incinerator

Michael Gove and an illustration of the incinerator - Credit: Grimshaw Architects/PA

Michael Gove has asked for the £1.2billion plan to rebuild the Edmonton Incinerator to be scrutinised following lobbying from a Conservative MP.

The North London Waste Authority (NLWA) - which represents Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Hackney, Haringey, Islington and Waltham Forest councils - approved plans to replace its current incinerator in December.

The authority the existing plant, built in 1971, should be replaced with a cleaner and safer "energy recovery facility" that will produce heat for local homes.

Following lobbying by Chingford MP Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who opposes the project, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will examine whether it is the “best value” option.

This partly stems from the rise in the estimated price tag of the rebuild, from £500million in 2017 to £1.2bn in 2019.

Concerns have also been raised around the authority’s transparency, with part of the work managed through its arms-length commercial operator London Energy Ltd.

A letter from Mr Gove said: “I have asked officials in the department to engage directly with NLWA and its external auditor Mazars to better understand the arrangements the authority has in place for decision making, including governance, scrutiny and external audit.

“Alongside this, I have asked that we ascertain how NLWA are managing and delivering the [project].

“I expect my officials to make comparisons to other waste authorities and large capital projects to provide assurance the NLWA are meeting the standards we would expect across the sector.”

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Mr Gove added that there is a “high bar and evidential basis” for his department to be able to intervene in the incinerator project.

A spokesperson for the NLWA said it has provided “extensive information” to show how it has achieved best value for money since 2017.

They added: “The overall budget was established in 2019 at £1.2 billion. NLWA regularly reports on the project’s delivery and costs: it is being managed within this budget.  

“The analysis then and now is that the project provides excellent value for money to build world-class infrastructure to deal with the waste of two million residents. 

“Not only would other options cost taxpayers millions of pounds extra every year but also would result in a far less positive outcome for the environment.  

“The project includes London’s biggest investment in recycling facilities in decades as well as the UK’s safest and most technologically advanced Energy Recovery Facility to generate heat and power for local homes.”