22 Jul 2011

Wasted Authorities: Threat from Pinkham Way Waste Plan

Installation Art in Lincoln Inns Field, July 2011. (photo: S Ali)

On 21 July 2011, the local Green Parties of Enfield, Haringey and Barnet organised a public meeting to raise awareness of the threat to health, environment and well-being posed by the North London Waste Authority’s plan to build an industrial scale waste plant at Pinkham wood.

Quentin Given, Coordinator of Tottenham and Wood Green Friends of the Earth, began with an overview of the kind of things we needed to be doing to reduce the amount of waste we produced as individuals and to take greater responsibility for its destiny in society. He made several excellent points, focusing on how overconsumption was the key illness that needed to be diagnosed and how goods needed to be built to last instead of turned over to the scrap heap.

Colin Parish, a local resident and founder of The Pinkham Way Alliance, spoke from the heart about how he first got involved in the campaign, almost as an unlikely activist, let alone somebody who had ever thought about green issues in the past. He spoke of his deepening understanding of the interconnectedness of things, and in particular the impact upon the planet of so much of human activity we took for granted, but needed to abate, such as supermarket packaging. He spoke about his desire to be able to enjoy his garden, free from fly infestation that would accompany such an industrial scale waste plant in his neighbourhood, and determination to see any future grandchildren be able to do the same, and to be able to visit the Pinkham Wood site as a place of beauty and nature. He spoke about the use of lawyers in the campaign and the need to be prepared to fight in the courts, as and when necessary, at every step – because of the intolerable impact such a plant would have on air pollution and huge lorries coming in and out of the plant, serving seven London boroughs.

Darren Johnson, Green London Assembly member, commended the campaign on its recent success in getting Haringey to postpone the NLWA waste application until the NLWA plan is completed. He spoke about the basic flaws in the waste plant proposal as a method of bringing together so much waste from seven boroughs without concerted action on improving the recycling regime, by introducing organic waste collection, for example. He spoke about the need to fight at every step, how the Greens would be with them every way, and the pressure that would need to be brought to bear on City Hall and the mayor.

Quentin Given (FoE), Darren Johnson AM (Green Party), David Bennie (Chair), Colin Parish (Pinkham Way Alliance)

All the contributions were eloquent and well informed. The contributions from the floor were also to the point and often attempted to address the broader context. Anne Gray spoke about the need for legislation to make it easier for businesses to be able to recycle without prohibitive charges. Laura Davenport spoke about her incredulity that whilst seven boroughs could get together to produce a dull, lengthy waste plan, they could not yet produce a plan to implement, what would be far better, consistency of best practice in recycling streams across the boroughs.

Colin Parish struck me as quite an inspirational figure. The local community will require leaders like that to come forward, to rise to the challenge. He even quoted Churchill, with the qualification (rightly) that he didn’t agree with everything he did or said, “Don’t do your best, do what is necessary.”

Just one thought I was left was the ridiculousness of co-ordinating waste across boroughs in this way. Brent is facing its own challenges up ahead, as part of the West London Waste Authority (see my colleague, Martin Francis's excellent updates here and here). There seems to be an inbuilt assumption amongst contractors bidding for tenders that they can make good on the profit motive by economising on scale, irrespective of whether this is good for the planet. Coordination must not come at the cost of proper appraisal of how to take responsibility for our waste locally.

Haringey Green Party report on the meeting here.

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