Jeremy Corbyn echoes Iain Duncan Smith's call to review £1.2bn incinerator 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

It's rare for staunch Tory Iain Duncan Smith and the socialist Jeremy Corbyn to see eye to eye. 

But the former Labour leader has echoed the former Conservative party's leader's calls for the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) to urgently put a pause on its plans to rebuild and expand the Edmonton incinerator.

The NLWA, which deals with rubbish from Islington, Hackney, Barnet, Camden, Enfield, Haringey and Waltham Forest, plans to spend £1.2bn on replacing the existing 52-year-old plant with an "energy recovery facility" (ERF).

This would generate energy to heat homes by burning rubbish, and the NLWA insists it is a "clean, environmentally responsible solution" for managing non-recyclable waste.

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

But the Islington North MP - along with campaign groups like the Stop the Edmonton Incinerator Now group and XR Zero Waste - disagrees.

He has raised concerns that a bigger incinerator is in direct contradiction to the government's commitment to become net zero by 2050, and Islington Council's pledge to do the same in nine years' time. 

Mr Corbyn said: "To achieve these pledges, decisive action must be taken to reduce carbon emissions and protect people from the effects of climate change. 

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"I am therefore concerned that by extending the incinerator, we are taking a step in the opposite direction. Incinerators have long life spans of approximately 30 to 50 years, meaning that any new construction is locking us into a carbon intensive method of waste disposal for years to come."

Mr Corbyn is also worried about the minute particles emitted by burning rubbish in the incinerator.

He added: "My understanding is there is a growing body of evidence which suggests these emissions could pose a dangerous risk to people's health, and I am concerned to learn that there is yet to be a cumulative health impact assessment for those residents who would be affected by the extended incinerator.

"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."

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn 

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn - Credit: PA

Mr Duncan Smith sought a review in Parliament last year, after the NLWA chair Cllr Clyde Loakes rejected calls for one to be carried out - despite the estimated cost of the whole project skyrocketing from £650m to £1.2bn in 2019.

Islington has two representatives - Cllrs Rowena Champion and Satnam Gill OBE - who sit on the board of the NLWA, along with 12 other councillors from the six other boroughs which run the waste authority.

The Gazette asked whether they would support Mr Corbyn's calls for an urgent pause and review. 

But they failed to reply.

Islington Council's press office suggested this paper should "contact the NLWA directly about this as they are best placed to respond".

A NLWA spokesperson said the project is "supported by all seven north London boroughs". 

They added: “The clear scientific consensus is that facilities like ours make an exceedingly small impact on pollution, and do not present a significant risk to public health. 

"This is the unambiguous position of Public Health England who confirms that modern, well-run energy from waste plants do not pose a significant health risk. 

"In addition, the UK’s Air Quality Expert Group states that facilities like ours are extremely effective in filtering ultrafine particles."

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has been approached for comment.

Three companies have bid for the £683m contract to rebuild the Edmonton incinerator, and the NLWA anticipates construction work could start next year.

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