Friday, 22 June 2012

Full article sent to Yorkshire Evening Post 22nd June 2012

As a local community activist and campaigner I have witnessed with varying degrees of disbelief, incredulity and anger the way my local community’s opinion has been ridden over rough shod by LCC in regard to the waste strategy for Leeds.

Inner East Leeds residents in particular have discovered that the word “consultation” is one that elected members and officers of Leeds City Council clearly do not understand the meaning of ! Consultation in more affluent areas of the city means asking a neighbourhoods opinion and taking its views into constructive consideration when planning infrastructure. In Inner East Leeds it consists of telling you what they are going to do and then using the insulting statement frequently repeated by Cllr Mark Dobson “We are where we are” to carry on regardless of a community’s express wishes and valid concerns.

There cannot be many residents in Leeds who would wish for energy from waste incinerator in their back yard or have the particles of pollution floating overhead as will happen in Colton, Seacroft, Swillington, KIppax and further afield. Even if that community is a super output area, have the highest levels of asthma, lung cancer, COPD, unemployment, NEETS, low educational attainment, high teenage pregnancy, alcoholism and smoking rates in the entire city which means along with other mitigating factors that a resident in East End Park / Cross Green will die an average of 10 years earlier than somebody in a leafy north Leeds suburb.

Our community may be officially classified as socially and economically deprived but it most certainly isn’t stupid; we know this facility will blight our community forever, force house prices to lower and keep many owner occupiers in negative equity unable to move away from a facility which they believe will damage their families health and wellbeing. For example:- If the emissions from the stack are Inert, why does it have to be 90metres high? If the by-products of combustion are so innocuous , why is the fly ash considered so hazardous it has to be buried underground in disused salt mines? If the process is so safe why do you need environmental permits and constant monitoring by the Environment agency?

Leeds sells itself as an innovative city, so why in the management of waste disposal is it so backward looking? No2 Incinerator can evidence with the councils own figures that waste volumes in the city are decreasing year on year. So why commit ratepayers into a 25 year Private Finance Initiative Contract that will tether Leeds to a company with an horrendous health and safety record, that has been cited by the United Nations as being complicit in war crimes in Palestine and that is being sued for contract and environmental breaches in the USA?

Think also about technology which is changing rapidly – 15 years ago a mobile phone was the size and weight of a house brick. Today a mobile smart phone has millions of times more functionality is a thousand times cheaper and fits in the palm of your hand.

This innovation is also true of people’s attitude to waste disposal. 5 years ago a plastic carrier bag in a supermarket was a free, today charging for bags for life is all the fashion. 10 years ago produce was double wrapped and the wrappers disposed of in a black bin, today all packaging carries labels to show how and where to dispose of your waste, what is recyclable and what isn’t. Even my local chemist in East End Park offers an asthma inhaler recycling facility which 1year ago would have raised a chuckle of disbelief.

And with regard to the much flaunted figure of £200 million if nothing is done. Nobody is suggesting that, but look at the facts. In 2011/12 LCC reduced the annual budget in a single swoop by £90 million. £200 million over 25 years is only £800,000 a year, peanuts in a budget of many millions annually, especially as they claim the delays in the project are already costing them over £350,000 for each years delay.

So how can we reduce our waste? From January 2011 to 2102 I kept every menu and item of junk mail that fell unsolicited through my letter box, a total weight of 7kgs. No2 incinerator will shortly provide “No2 Menu Stickers” for letter boxes in East Leeds which will we believe have the potential to reduce waste in Leeds by hundreds of tonnes a year, which will alleviate some of the alleged deficit in one proactive voluntary community funded initiative.

It is now the time to demonstrate to our local labour councillors and labour controlled authority by our actions that the community of East Leeds stands at the front of the anti incineration campaign, they may follow us if they choose to, but I and many others will not trust them again to support and value the opinions of citizens they so blatantly misrepresent, by saying one thing in public and voting another.

You only have to look at the way Cllr Ron Grahame promised our local fire fighters in Dec 2011 that he would oppose the cuts in provision and yet in one short sentence “ Sorry boys I have been whipped” he turned his back on them and voted to close 2 stations in East Leeds, reduce the number of operational fire fighters in our area by 24 and then have the audacity to say not five months later that WY Fire and Rescue was stretched to breaking point. (But strangely enough the new station will be closer to his home, so he won’t be impacted by longer call out times)

One of the qualifications it seems for being a councillor is a short term memory that a gold fish would be proud of. Actually I suspect it’s the only way they can face themselves in a mirror to shave each morning, and that’s just the women!

NO2 Incinerator has steadfastly and resolutely for the past three years opposed incineration as a method of residual waste disposal. Our goal of a zero waste community will not waiver regardless of the political party in power at Civic Hall. We will oppose the planning application to the very best of our ability and we will lead the opposition to the planning application from the front, and with sheer Yorkshire grit and single mindedness and in solidarity with our fellow anti- incineration organisations we will win!

If it means chaining myself to railings and acts of civil disobedience so be it. It’s time for a 50 year old grandma to roll up her sleeves and show Leeds City Council “This waste ain’t for burning”

Sarah Covell (aged 50)

Resident of East End Park

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