Jeremy Corbyn and parliamentary group call for incinerator to be halted

Jeremy Corbyn has joined climate campaigners in calling for a pause and review

Jeremy Corbyn has joined climate campaigners in calling for a pause and review - Credit: Andrea Domeniconi/Alamy Live New/PA

Islington MP Jeremy Corbyn has called for an “urgent pause” to the rebuild of the Edmonton incinerator – just before a crunch vote on the divisive development.

The intervention by the former Labour leader comes after MPs and peers said the expansion of the planned £1.2bn waste burning facility in north London should be stopped.

A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Air Pollution called for a moratorium on expanding waste incinerators, citing a “significant health hazard” to local residents and the need to cut carbon emissions.  

The mounting pressure on the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) follows calls from climate campaigners and politicians to halt the scheme.

The authority – whose members are representatives of Camden, Barnet, Haringey, Islington, Hackney, Enfield and Waltham Forest councils – is set to vote on awarding the construction contract to Acciona on Thursday (December 16).

Mr Corbyn told this newspaper: "Now is the time to make decisions that our children and grandchildren will look back on and be proud of.

“Now is the time to make decisions that will take us down a different path, a path that moves away from carbon intensive ways of our past, like burning all our waste, and towards green solutions.

“Surely now is the time to focus all resources and investment into reducing waste and increasing recycling.

Designs for the new energy recovery facility

Designs for the new energy recovery facility - Credit: NLWA

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“While I welcome the attempts to include recycling facilities at the new incineration site, the incinerator itself will run for approximately 40 years, and seriously undermine all collective efforts to increase recycling and meet net zero targets.  

“Finally, if there is the slightest risk the incinerator expansion will add to the health problems caused by poor air quality and existing inequalities in the borough, I cannot in good conscience support the project.

“I join with local MPs, GPs, residents, and campaigners who are asking for an urgent pause and review of the proposed incinerator expansion.”

According to Defra, in north London recycling rates are only 30% and more than half of the incinerated waste is readily recyclable.  

The proposed facility in Edmonton will have the capacity to burn 700,000 tonnes of waste, which critics estimate could lead to the release of 700,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. 

Campaigners held a protest on Monday (December 13) as they blocked entrances to prevent lorries accessing the site. At least two people were arrested.

Protesters at the incinerator site

Protesters at the incinerator site - Credit: Extinction Rebellion

Geraint Davies MP, chair of the APPG on Air Pollution, said: “The emerging evidence does not support increases in incineration in London, but rather a need for the government and investors to pause and reflect and not to allow excess capacity to drive the burning of recyclable waste.

“In the aftermath of a disappointing COP26, it is important to promote the improvement of air quality as a central strategy to combat climate change and to improve human health.

“This means that we should apply the precautionary principle to waste incineration and that government and local authorities must take time to think again, in particular when considering the health risks of putting plants in urban locations with dense populations.” 

Despite criticism from opposition parties, all seven north London councils involved in the Edmonton project have continued to back its redevelopment – bar Haringey.  

The local authority’s leader Peray Ahmet called for the scheme to be paused and reviewed, citing concerns over the impact to the environment. 

But in a recent letter to Haringey Labour members, seen by the Ham&High, Haringey’s cabinet member for the environment , Cllr Mike Hakata, said the incinerator “isn’t a necessary evil, but will contribute positively to our climate goals”.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, chair of the NLWA, said: “The existing plant was designed for 700,000 tonnes but currently operates at a lower capacity due to its age. This means a proportion of north London's waste is being sent elsewhere.  

“The new facility will mean we will not have to export waste to other areas and is flexible enough so it doesn't need to be full to operate.  

“As a publicly owned facility we will have the ability to apply further technological advancements as they develop to ensure our plant can continue to be the safest, cleanest facility in the UK.”