Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Councillor Juliet Solomon (Alexandra Ward): Speech to Haringey Council, 18 July

Link to read Councillor Solomon's Motion, and the (successful) Amendment, at yesterday's Haringey Council meeting, here.

Why we are here

"We are most certainly not here to discuss any kind of planning application; that is for the Planning Committee, although what has stimulated the present interest in rubbish is the proposal to build one of Europe’s biggest 'MBT' waste-processing plants on the ecologically-designated scrub and woodland nature site at Pinkham Way, by the North Circular.

We object, even though one of the amendments just received to our motion says:
“... the council will consider the scale of any proposed development at Pinkham Way, and the likely impact on local residents and schools. When assessing the potential impact, the council will look at concerns such as traffic, noise, odour and other relevant issues.” 
This is meaningless: these are standard planning issues, and would in any case be considered; there is no need to mention them here, so this amendment must be deleted. It isn’t quite clear why they were inserted, except possibly as a pacifier.

For those unfamiliar with the terminology, the proposed 'MBT' technology means Mechanical and Biological [Technology] Processing. This is a way of dealing with the apparently unrecyclable contents of black bins, leaving only 20% to go to landfill, and providing brick-like fuel pellets called RDF, or refuse derived fuel, which can be used to generate energy of various sorts. Although it has some downsides, it seems to be, in principle, a pretty good technology, and indeed is, when plants of suitable scale and in suitable places are being considered. Which isn’t easy – if they want the massive ones.

(Link to April 2011 posting)
 Anybody who has visited one of these waste processing sites will be aware that we are talking about very large complexes. In this case, it is taking up about as much space as the retail park on the other side of the North Circular, but infinitely more industrial in character, and requiring continuous lorryloads to keep it in work. This is by the already congested A406, abutting primary schools and residents, most of whom are not in an income bracket which would enable them to up-sticks at will – if they should want to leave their homes. Which they well might, if they value health and clean air. 

How on earth did anyone of sane mind hit on Pinkham Way as a suitable site? How did they think they could make it acceptable to residents, or didn’t they care? If they had, as they claim, done much consultation, the public gallery would be unlikely now to be heaving with unconsulted masses.

Policy processes

Proposals for Haringey waste sites are theoretically governed by two plans:
  • the Local Development Framework (LDF), and
  • the North London Waste Plan. 
Both of these are supposed to have an existence independent of, and prior to, specific proposals. The norm would be to pass strategic plans first, accept proposals second, in a properly ordered and democratically-run society. But neither of the plans has yet finished its consultation process, or been ratified. Earlier today we heard with delight that they had finally decided not to determine a proposal until the waste plan is passed. Yet Haringey had happily started to validate a specific proposal, maintaining that their order of events was quite normal.

Pinkham Way policies

Under the existing Development Plan policies, Pinkham Way had various ecological designations, as well as an 'employment area' designation. In fact, the last proposal there, in which I was personally involved, and when you could still get into the site, was turned down partly on ecological grounds. 

There seemed no reason to suppose that these considerations, and therefore the site, were at risk. In the first year of the LDF consultation, indeed, until the very last few weeks, there was no sign of any change from an acceptable and protective position.


The waste plan and proposal have been simmering away for nearly three years. There has been plenty of time for the Council, were they so minded, to have publicised widely the possibility of policy changes, and for Haringey residents to have been given adequate opportunity to express a view. 

Presumably, those in charge knew a change in the Pinkham Way designation could be unpopular, which might be why it was kept out of sight, until after the main consultation on the LDF had finished. A document called 
"Additional Regulation 27 consultation on Affordable Housing and Employment Land"
was then issued. This document – whose title hardly suggests industrialisation of open spaces, and whose consultation scope was extremely limited – contained, tucked away, a change in designation for Pinkham Way to 'Local Site of Industrial Significance', which is the 'required' enabling designation. 

The only real justification given for this was that the planning documents, and I quote: 
"need to comply with pre-application discussions, which have already taken place, to use part of the site for a recycling centre, and another part for a waste station." (Fundamental Changes, Reg. 27, pages 24-25.)
Their claim:
"that prior to the start of any formal consultation, Haringey Council has taken a pro-active approach to informing residents about the Pinkham Way planning application"
was only true recently, after they had failed to do so earlier. They have now been effectively forced to do something, by public and political pressure – not by their desire to look after their residents.


Playing around and adjusting the order of normal planning consultation processes, as well as minimising them to ensure that Barnet and the North London Waste Authority could get what they wanted, could be characterised as 'sleight of hand'. Never mind the views or feelings of Haringey’s residents!

But it shouldn’t take a campaign to get things dealt with in the proper order, which they are now - almost. Nor should developer proposals influence the Local Development Framework. What is the point of having a plan at all, if we allow it to be determined by developers? You can imagine what would happen, if this became common practice. 

The Majority Group now say, quite correctly, but after huge pressure, that the Waste Plan must be passed, before they will consider a specific proposal, yet they have mentioned, in their amendments, neither the Local Development Framework nor the need to lose the offending industrial designation.

Further, they claim that the North London Waste Authority have agreed to this. That is a red herring; it is not in the Waste Authority’s gift: it is for Haringey Planning to decide what Haringey determines.

Waste in Society

I should like to wind up by saying that we have got to this stage because we individually, and collectively, generate ludicrous amounts of waste. 

Of course, we must seek sensible ways of dealing with it. But this makes it crucial that the whole population has the chance to be involved in consideration of solutions for its disposal or reuse.

I imagine that very few of us have any idea what present and future needs are, and will be, or know what other possibilities of disposal exist. This one is not the answer. And even if you are not yet opposed to the waste proposal, can any of us really think that our residents should have to put up with additional noxious fumes and nasty noises from Barnet’s lorries, to fill the treasury of Brian Coleman’s council?

I would therefore ask the Council to support the motion unamended."

Scroll through all our posts, for further reports of the Council meeting
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  1. Irene Sallas said...

    Well good for you Councillor Solomon! I truly hope reason and justice will prevail. So many vested interests have been exposed in the examination of this matter. Conflicts of interest laid bare - particularly with regard to Councillor Coleman who has no qualms about dumping on Haringey --- (this comment has been shortened here by administrators) ---

    It is staggering to witness that Councils are prepared to disregard their statutory obligations and bend the rules at will, as is evidenced by the cloak-and-dagger redesignation of the site! No satisfactory explanations have been offered regarding how this 'protected' site of Grade 1 Borough Importance could be arbitrarily designated as a site suitable for an Industrial Facility such as this.

    How can we be confident in the Democratic process, if Developers can wield such influence, and dictate decisions such as this? This is cause for grave concern, on so many levels.

  2. Andie Vermeersch21 July 2011 at 08:57

    Hallelujah - at last Haringey council have been pressured into following proper procedure. Residents had not been consulted at all, I found out about the plan from a friend early March this year. Furthermore - isn't it European law not to build such sites near residential areas?
    Thanks to Councillors like Ms. Solomon and residents coming out in force to put Haringey council to shame!
    Now - everyone must keep on track and remain vigilant - plus, recycle as much as we can....

  3. David Rennie said:

    Juliet has done brilliantly in getting Haringey to put the horse back in front of the cart. She has also reminded us that prevention is better than cure: we all need to drastically reduce the quantities of waste that we – often unwillingly (e.g. surplus packaging) – produce.

    Juliet explains that the MBT technology is good in so far as it converts all but 20% of the waste that would otherwise go to landfill to bricks that can be burnt (remotely?) to generate energy. But the rub is that MBT appears currently to be most effective at an industrial scale totally alien to an urban area. That presents a technological challenge that needs to be resolved.

    So this is another example of the centralisation that results from ever larger facilities – health services (huge hospitals and now polyclinics), hypermarkets, schools, farms…Travel distances and road traffic and pollution increase, making cities less attractive places to live; those who cannot afford cars are isolated.

    We need to first devote more political will to reducing waste. Then, where urban terminals are locally accessible, transport the remainder by water and rail to remote industrial sites. Otherwise boroughs should deal with their own waste; that would raise public pressure for ways of achieving MBT-like processing at a smaller scale.

    David Rennie