The Alliance is now one of the organisations which has been invited to participate in focus group meetings ahead of drafting of a replacement North London Waste Plan. However, it considers that the Authority is not really willing to listen to opponents of its schemes and is engaging in "cynical" tactics.
A short paper by Jeffrey Lever outlining the history and background to the campaigns relating to Pinkham Way and the North London Waste Plan was presented at the recent annual general meeting of the Southgate Green Association. The paper is reproduced below.
SOUTHGATE GREEN ASSOCIATION AGM 28 JUNE 2014
OUTLINE REPORT OF ACTIVITIES RELATING TO PINKHAM WAY NATURE CONSERVATION SITE AND NORTH LONDON’S WASTE MANAGEMENT
Southgate Green is the nearest Conservation Area to the Pinkham Way site, which is located 2 km south-west of The Green, on the south side of the North Circular Road, opposite Friern Bridge Retail Park and Alan Day Motors. In November 2009 the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) secretly bought the majority of the site from Barnet Council. In February 2011 this became known when the NLWA applied for outline planning permission to build a huge waste plant on the site to process 300,000 tonnes of household refuse per year, with Barnet Council to move its waste vehicle depot to the other part of the site.
Experience of similar plant elsewhere in the UK indicates potential damage to Southgate Green, which is downwind of the site, from odour nuisance, air pollution and fly infestations. Other detriments would be a worsening of the congestion on the North Circular Road, which already obstructs access by road into Southgate Green from the west and, importantly, the loss of a valuable open space which contributes biodiversity, improved air quality and flood absorption/prevention to the surrounding area.
The response has been the formation of Pinkham Way Alliance (PWA), a consortium of residents’ associations, businesses and schools in Friern Barnet, Muswell Hill, Bounds Green, Palmers Green and Southgate. Southgate Green Association has affiliated to the PWA through which we work on this matter. This work has included careful research, advocacy at official enquiries, lobbying MPs and Councillors, and organising wider public support through the PWA’s website and outreach stalls at farmers’ markets, school fairs and outside Tesco on Colney Hatch Lane. PWA is supported by all the local MPs from all three major parties.
The two main issues
The two main issues are (1) that the site is not appropriate for a large waste plant, and (2) that the site is not needed for waste, since there is sufficient land, comprising existing waste sites and derelict industrial land which the London Plan states are the proper location for waste management developments. Therefore our research, lobbying and publicity has been on Planning Policy affecting the site and the Joint Waste Strategy of North London’s seven Borough Councils.
At an early stage we convinced the Planning Inspector that there was no evidence to support Haringey Council’s attempt to assign an Industrial Use to the site as part of its Development Plan. Although zoned for Employment, the site is also zoned a Grade 1 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC) of Borough Importance. Subsequently we negotiated an agreement with Haringey Council that it will not make any decision about the site until it has received the results of surveys on the environmental value of the site and the extent of need for employment land in that location. Any decision will then be made in public by Haringey’s Cabinet.
We have been pointing out to Haringey Council (the Planning Authority for the site) that since the site’s 19th century sewage works were removed in 1963, all traces of its former use have been overtaken by nature. Planning policy therefore recognises that the site is a green open space, and not brownfield land. Greenfield sites are considered to be of high ecological value, and should not be developed when Brownfield or other industrial sites are available.
This year PWA commissioned an expert Ecologist’s report which concluded that the site remains a good Site of Importance to Nature Conservation. The site has 1,500 trees, 25 of which are protected by Tree Preservation Orders, more than one hundred species of plant, and is the habitat of six endangered species of bird. Haringey Council has accepted the conclusions of this study as accurate. A further study, of invertebrate species, commissioned by PWA is currently in progress.
Following the Planning Inspector’s rejection of the North London Waste Plan in 2012, a new North London Waste Plan is being drafted and is under consultation. We are participating fully in all consultations.
A significant problem is that the NLWA bought the majority of the site for £12m based on a faulty assessment of the site’s suitability, and has since been trying to persuade Haringey Council to accept that its use for waste processing is acceptable. We will continue to present the evidence that it is not.
North London Joint Waste Strategy
Having studied the Waste Strategy and its associated documents, PWA concluded that the authorities’ forecasts of future waste amounts were too high by 40%, and hence they had no need for the Pinkham Way site. The authorities disagreed with us when we submitted this to the North London Waste Plan Examination in Public in June 2012. However, in a December 2012 announcement, after reviewing the waste arisings in the seven councils, they accepted our conclusion on the quantity of waste, and stated that planned facilities at the Eco-Park at Edmonton were sufficient without the use of the Pinkham Way site. In February 2013 they withdrew their planning application for Pinkham Way.
We also discovered that the NLWA was planning to enter into two 27-year contracts under which it would pay £3-4 billion for waste services and the use of refuse-derived fuel (the “procurement”). It was this procurement that originally called for building on the Pinkham Way SINC. Further study led us to conclude that the procurement would be poor value for money. Therefore we complained to the District Auditor and asked him to make a Report in the Public Interest on this. Accordingly, his September 2013 report on the NLWA’s accounts warned that the procurement had become “a key value for money risk”, causing the NLWA to abandon the procurement and announce that they had found a cheaper way to manage the waste, by simply upgrading their incinerator at the Edmonton Eco-Park. This will be £900m cheaper than the abandoned procurement, they say. Less the £21m wasted compiling the failed procurement, and £12m on the unnecessary purchase of the Pinkham Way site, we note. The Auditor’s investigation is still ongoing.
In the past year the persistent and wide-ranging planning policy arguments that we have generated have made it less likely that the site will have a waste plant on it. And the community’s remarkable success in halting the outrageously expensive procurement can also be counted as a huge benefit for the taxpayers of all seven boroughs of North London.
PWA has achieved remarkable success so far, but the site is not out of danger yet.
Yet, although the NLWA “has no current plans” to develop the site, and despite that all the planning arguments are against them, they persist in trying to have the site re-designated as suitable for large scale waste processing. We, on the other hand, consider that if a developer unwisely buys land that is unsuitable for his purpose, he should not demand that the planning policies which protect public amenity be waived to spare him pecuniary loss or embarrassment – even if, as in this case, that developer is a public Waste Authority.
Moreover, open spaces are vital to the health of our city. Once lost, they are rarely recovered.