Sadiq Khan urged to denounce £1.2bn Edmonton incinerator

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan 

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan - Credit: PA

Calls have been made for Sadiq Khan to “come out strongly and publicly” in opposition to the Edmonton incinerator’s rebuild as it stands, after he agreed to support campaigners and politicians looking to pause the £1.2bn project.

Cross party MPs from Iain Duncan Smith to Jeremy Corbyn and Kate Osamor joined the protest group Stop the Edmonton Incinerator Now at a meeting with the mayor of London last week, where they laid out the case for a pause and review of the plans.

Costs for the North London Heat and Power project (NLHPP), which also includes a recycling facility, have spiralled, and estimates doubled from £650m in 2019 - with the incinerator contract now costing £683m alone.

An artist's impression of what the new energy recovery facility could look like. Picture: Grimshaw A

An artist's impression of what the new energy recovery facility could look like. Picture: Grimshaw Architects - Credit: Grimshaw Architects

The North London Waste Authority (NLWA), which deals with rubbish from Islington, Hackney, Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Waltham Forest, says it is necessary to replace the existing 52-year-old plant.

In 2017 it secured permission to build an "energy recovery facility" which would generate energy to heat homes by burning rubbish.

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Politicians and climate campaigners from organisations like Greenpeace and XR Zero Waste, say that dramatic changes in law, policy and public opinion since then, along with the government's declaration of a climate emergency in 2019, mean the NLWA should at least review its plans.

Carina Milstone standing in front of the existing incinerator in Edmonton.

Carina Milstone standing in front of the existing incinerator in Edmonton. - Credit: Stop the Edmonton Incinerator Re

But its chair Clyde Loakes has steadfastly refused to do so, and with just one bidder left in the NLWA's race to rebuild the incinerator, campaigners are concerned it could award the construction contract ahead of schedule before the spring.

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At the meeting with campaigners and politicians, at which journalists were barred, Mr Khan said he would be prepared to act as former Tory leader Mr Duncan Smith’s “wingman” to push business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng and environmental secretary George Eustace to carry out a costs and environmental review of the project.  

This newspaper asked City Hall why Mr Khan considers a costs review and an environmental review is necessary, but did not receive a response.

Campaigners have long since been urging the NLWA to conduct a value for money study of the proposed incinerator, but Cllr Loakes publicly refused at its AGM last year – despite an onslaught of appeals from politicians, doctors and campaigners from the seven boroughs whose waste will be burnt at the plant.

Iain Duncan Smith who is calling for a pause and review of the Edmonton incinerator rebuild

Iain Duncan Smith who is calling for a pause and review of the Edmonton incinerator rebuild. Mr Duncan Smith, MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, has expressed concern about the harmful effects the particulate matter emitted from the incinerator would have on his constituents’ health, who live downwind from the incinerator - Credit: PA

If recycling targets are met, Mr Khan’s own office estimates that the incinerator will contribute 75 per cent, or 700,000 tonnes, of the 950,000 tonnes surplus waste capacity forecast for London by 2030.

Emma Best, the Conservative London-wide Assembly member who arranged the meeting, urged Mr Khan to "come out strongly and publicly about his opposition to the rebuild in its current form", and to "call on his local Labour council colleagues on the NLWA to put a stop to this project".

She added: “There is little political will left for this project as it stands.

With the previous leader of the Labour party joining a previous leader of the Conservative party in their very vocal opposition to this, one loud and definitive call from the Mayor could be the final nail in this re-build’s coffin.”

A spokesperson for Mr Khan said it was not within his power to either pause the scheme or to bring any further legal challenge to it, but added: “The mayor is focussed on working with NLWA and other stakeholders to make sure that this facility minimises the local environmental impact.

“The mayor has been clear that he opposes any new incinerators in London.”

Cllr Loakes insisted that while Mr Khan "would like to avoid excess energy from waste capacity, and opposes facilities which have not already been given consent", that the NLWA's project "contributes to the objectives of his waste strategy which notes that NLHPP has already been granted development permission and is therefore assumed to be developed".

He added: "The Greater London Authority also recognises the district heating benefits of our project, and recently awarded grant funding to expand the heat network that will connect to it."

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