‘Stop!' Chorus of disapproval from incinerator protesters

Campaigners break into song and bring waste authority’s AGM to a halt

Friday, 1st July — By Charlotte Chambers


Anti-incinerator protester Jenny Brown

PROTESTERS against a new rubbish-burning incinerator brought a waste authority’s annual general meeting to a halt by breaking into song.

The campaigners continued with a rewritten version of The Supremes’ classic Stop! In The Name Of Love until board members of the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) got up and moved to a private room.

They called for a new chair ahead of the re-election of Clyde Loakes for a 15th turn in charge.

The NLWA has been at the centre of a storm over its plans to build a new incinerator in Edmonton on the site of the current plant, which will come to the end of its life in 2025.

This will be where waste from Islington and six other boroughs will be sent, but objectors say it will pump harmful emissions into the air, worsening the climate crisis.

Calling the banner “Stop The Edmonton Incinerator Now!”, a protest group formed and protested outside and inside the AGM, held at Camden Council’s offices last Thursday.

The incinerator already burns around 500,000 tonnes of rubbish per year – and climate activists say more must be done to secure a rise in recycling instead. The new plant was approved by the NLWA in December but the objectors are not prepared to give up.

Islington is represented on the NLWA’s board by its environment chief Councillor Rowena Champion, who was made one of Cllr Loakes’ deputies last week. She has long argued there is no viable alternative to disposing of our rubbish and defended the new plant as the most “state of the art facility” in the country.

She told the Tribune: “Recycling is good but it’s difficult in a borough like Islington: you can’t click your fingers and magically waste disappears” – and added that the government must make recycling a national focus.

Protesters argue that incineration is bad for people’s health and it makes no sense for England to continue to build new waste-burning plants when Wales and Scotland are phasing them out.

Islington recycling rates recently dropped two per cent below their target of 32 per cent of rubbish recycled this year.

This week Sadiq Khan called the plant at Edmonton “unnecessary” at Mayor’s Question Time, and called on the government to make it “compulsory” for waste plants to only burn “truly non-recyclable waste”.

The NLWA has also been told that the government’s levelling-up secretary Michael Gove wants a review of its plans and accounts, including the £1.2 billion spend on the incinerator.

The disruption at the meeting saw nine voices initially startle the board into silence, as they sang: “Stop! Pause and review, do not elect Clyde Loakes.”

Jane Leggett, who wrote the protest songs, said: “We have tried every single means possible to try to get the NLWA to listen to proven scientific fact about the dangers of increasing the incineration capacity of the Edmonton incinerator, and not actually doing the right thing – which would be reducing the amount of waste by recycling and other methods. We have had many deputations and they’ve just been ignored.”

Describing the scene as they broke into song, she said: “They tried to pretend nothing was happening really so there was very little [reaction but] they understood pretty quickly what was happening.”

Dorothea Hackman from the Camden branch Extinction Rebellion told the meeting: “The current chair has been in place for 14 years now. In other bodies, ­government bodies, 10 years would be the natural limit. The reasons for this are very obvious. People become very wedded to decisions that they have made earlier and have difficulty hearing legitimate and evidenced objections and complaints.”

Karel Schling

Cllr Champion insisted “we’ve absolutely taken on board what people have said” but had “come to a different conclusion”.

She said it was a “misconception” that the project had not evolved over time or that “if Clyde hadn’t been the chair the decision would have been different” but “that’s absolutely not the case”.

She added: “This project has really evolved over the years. Decisions have been made over the years. We’ve come out with a state of the art, world-leading facility that was very different from what was envisaged years ago.”

An NLWA spokesperson said Cllr Loakes had a “wealth of experience in tackling complex environmental issues” and highlighted there were no term limits in UK politics.

They added: “Protesters shut down a democratic meeting to push their views and make personal attacks on members of the North London Waste Authority, both past and present.

“NLWA is a democratic organisation made up of councillors who have been recently elected by residents across north London to represent them, and which the seven north London boroughs select for membership of the authority.”

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