Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/523/3849
Walthamstow 'RAPpers' against toxic incinerators
A FANTASTIC first meeting was held by 'Residents Against Pollution' (RAP) in Walthamstow, north-east London on 27 February. 40 angry local people came and made it absolutely clear what they think about the new North London Waste plans.
Paula Mitchell, Walthamstow
The message to the rather stunned planners we had invited was loud and clear: Don't dump on working-class areas, no new incinerators in north London, stop private companies making profits out of pollution, and give us a real say!
Seven north London councils are making plans for waste disposal. They are looking at different sites across north London, half of them in Waltham Forest. It is very likely there will be a new incinerator at one of the sites.
The planners and their consultants have held 'consultation workshops' in each of the seven boroughs. But they have been poorly advertised. The vast majority of residents know nothing about the plans.
Residents around one of the proposed sites - Blackhorse Lane - decided that wasn't good enough. Local people and Socialist Party members leafleted and knocked doors around the local streets. We called a meeting to give local residents the chance to have our voices heard. We also invited the Waste Plan Project manager and representatives from the consultants and the council to come to this meeting to explain the plans, answer questions and most importantly listen to what local people think.
The consultants didn't know what had hit them! They are used to controlling the discussion around their own questions and inhibiting people from saying what they really think. This time local people took control and the planners had to listen.
People wanted to know why nearly all the proposed sites are in poor working-class areas. They objected to the places where we live and where our children play being described as 'industrial' - suggesting that it's ok to pollute us!
We were 'consulted' just a few months ago on the regeneration of our area and were presented with pretty pictures of trees and flats and a riverside park - there were no pictures of smoking chimneys belching polluting chemicals at the end of our streets.
People were highly sceptical about the consultation process. Why was it that the planners held a meeting for the whole borough and only got 20 people to it; we hold a meeting for a few local streets and 40 people come? Doesn't this show that they are not really trying to contact people; that they are not really interested in what we have to say?
As one man said: "How do we know you haven't made up your minds already and this isn't just bullshit?"
Several people pointed out that the new waste sites will be run by private companies, which only exist to make a profit. How can we trust them? Waste disposal should be run as a public service under democratic scrutiny.
We agreed we would demand that there are no new incinerators in north London. Incinerators are highly polluting. Campaigners from around the country have contacted us with evidence of greatly increased infant mortality in clusters downwind of incinerators.
We also agreed that the Edmonton incinerator should be shut down and replaced with alternative systems. We plan to contact the council about holding a public presentation of the scientific evidence about the effects of incinerators and other systems.
The meeting ended with plans to meet again in April to look at the results of this first stage of the consultation. If we don't like what we read, we are prepared to have lobbies, protests and do whatever it takes to defend the safety and health of people in our area. Although we have only just started, already the planners are feeling the heat under their feet.
In The Socialist 4 March 2008:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
International Women's Day
Environment and socialism
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis