Waste authority chair stifles debate over 'disturbing' incinerator plans

Cllr Clyde Loakes, chair of the North London Waste Authority

Cllr Clyde Loakes, who was re-elected as chair of the North London Waste Authority, at its annual general meeting in June 2021 - Credit: NLWA

The chairman of the North London Waste Authority stifled any debate over the Edmonton incinerator rebuild at its annual general meeting, despite one councillor saying the plans "disturbed him hugely".

Clyde Loakes, who was re-elected for the 13th year in a row to head the 14 councillors on the NLWA's board, instead told new member Isidoros Diakides they could discuss his concerns later - once the public meeting was over.

The board heard from a youth group, campaigners, councillors and a doctor, all calling for an urgent pause and review of the project.

Not only have costs soared from £650m to £1.2bn and new research has emerged on the harmful health effects of particulate matter, but a climate emergency was declared since the project was conceived.

Each of the 13 delegates had five minutes to state their case. Annette Baker from Plastic Free Crouch End called for new technology, which extracts recyclables from black bin bag waste, to be incorporated into plans for what the authority has dubbed the North London Heat and Power Project.

Monica Caruso, from EnCaf Youth said the incinerator would continue to produce carbon emissions, and affect young people's futures. Delia Mattis, the founder of Black Lives Matter Enfield, quoted experts who have linked air pollution to Covid-19 deaths, which are 40 per cent higher than the national average in Enfield. North Middlesex hospital doctor Edward Tranah pointed out the NLWA cannot demonstrate that incineration at Edmonton EcoPark does not harm public health.

Grandmother Betty Hales said the NLWA's initial consultation had not been extensive enough to alert residents to the fact an incinerator was even on the cards. Carina Millstone from the Stop the Edmonton Incinerator Now campaign, pointed out the government Committee on Climate Change's carbon budget from December identified the proliferation of incinerators in the UK as a key challenge in addressing climate change.

Ben Griffith from Islington Environmental Emergency Alliance raised the point that the proposed 30 per cent expansion of the incinerator would make it "much too large", according to the NLWA’s very own projections. And Helen Mayer from Haringey Labour Climate Action highlighted the NLWA's proposal to import waste from abroad to burn if local supplies of rubbish decline.

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Speaking on behalf of Enfield residents, Aurora Yaacov, said the NLWA’s commitment to install carbon capture and storage technology has not been costed into the £1.2bn plans, and that the seven councils on the NLWA would end up bearing the as yet unknown costs.

Waltham Forest Cllr and Assembly Member Emma Best said it would be "irresponsible to proceed" without a value for money review - that Cllr Loakes refused to conduct last year.

Environmental engineer Georgia Elliott Smith spoke about the creation of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) by incinerators, which a global study in 2020 found can cause congenital anomalies and miscarriage.

And speaking on behalf of trade unions in north London, Felicity Premru called for an independent environmental and social impact assessment of the project, while Helen Karamallakis from the Edmonton Labour Party called for the NLWA to commission a fully independent scientific investigation into what effects it might have on public health and climate change.

Following every single deputation, Waltham Forest councillor Clyde Loakes repeated the phrase: "I thank you for your submission today and I will provide you with a written response after the meeting addressing the issues you have raised in your deputation".

After over an hour of hearing their evidence, Cllr Loakes said it was time to move on to the next item on the agenda.

But Haringey Labour party councillor, Isidoros Diakides asked if they could discuss some of the issues that had just been raised.

Haringey Labour party councillor, Isidoros Diakides, who sits on the board of the North London Waste Authority

Haringey Labour party councillor, Isidoros Diakides, who sits on the board of the North London Waste Authority, at its annual general meeting in June 2021 - Credit: NLWA

Cllr Loakes told him he would pass on his written responses instead - but Cllr Diakides insisted, saying he wanted to talk "as a group of councillors".

"I appreciate you are a new councillor on the authority, but all of the issues raised today have been discussed in many ways over many years," replied Cllr Loakes.

"We can have a further discussion later if that's what you require," he added - meaning once the meeting was over.

"How can I put it on the agenda that we do have a discussion?" asked Cllr Diakides.

"What I heard really disturbed me hugely. 

"I may be wrong but I would like explanations, and I want a discussion. How do I do that? Please advise me what is the proper procedure, because as you pointed out, I'm new."

Cllr Loakes replied: "Yes as chair I'll take a note of that and we'll have a discussion later, ok," and moved swiftly on to hear the board's financial update.

Cllr Clyde Loakes, chair of the North London Waste Authority

Cllr Clyde Loakes, who was re-elected as chair of the North London Waste Authority, at its annual general meeting in June 2021 - Credit: NLWA

Ms Elliott-Smith, who was attending the meeting remotely, could be heard speaking over the finance update, asking: "Why was that councillor not heard?"

Cllr Best had already drawn attention to the fact no debate was taking place earlier in the meeting. 

She said: "The political will of this really lies with the majority Labour committee standing here today.

"The community view, well, I've never heard any positive voices in support of this [the incinerator rebuild] but you've heard today the strength of the opposition, and I do wonder how and why you are continuing to ignore the voices of so many.

"It is astounding in every negative sense of the word.

"Members are not asking any questions of any of the deputations. I learn something new every time I speak to Carina [of the Stop the Edmonton Incinerator Now campaign], and I've learned something new today.

"I can't believe no one on this committee wouldn't have a single question to ask her."

Ms Mattis called for Cllr Loakes to resign at the meeting. 

She said: "As elected officials, you turn a blind eye and put profit of the incinerator industry over the lives of people in Edmonton. You should never be forgiven, and it will never be forgotten. 

"You have a chair of the NLWA who is known for having a disrespectful attitude to those opposed to the incinerator. He has been the chair for over 13 years, and while other chairs are rotated, Cllr Clyde Loakes remains."

Ms Millstone had made reference to the NLWA's previous AGM when Cllr Loakes was accused of being "extraordinarily rude".

She said: "I would like to commend you for your respectful performance so far at this meeting, after the fiasco last year.

"The display of misogyny, derision, sexism - and I'm amazed you are still in post - but I'm really glad you have clearly learned from that experience."