I first got involved in politics as a student when Oxford Polytechnic decided to close the course down the course I was studying. I launched a campaign that brought together students, teachers and others who felt the decision was wrong. We won and although my course later closed – new design courses evolved and are still being run by what is now Oxford Brookes University.
Of course, I didn’t realise it was politics at the time – I just got stuck into a campaign on an issue I cared deeply about. It was another 20 years before I decided to run for parliament. Yet, scoring a victory in that campaign still counts as one of the best things I have achieved in my life so I know just how elated campaigners against the Pinkham Way Waste Plant feel right now. The public inquiry into the planning application for the plant has been suspended and I hope that is a step towards the plans being abandoned all together.
I was preparing to attend the public inquiry – which was due to last for two weeks – when I heard that the whole thing had been called off after just two hours. It was astonishing news but very welcome. The chair of the enquiry decided to scrap the hearing because of objections about procedural failings by the planners – important failings in the way they listened to the views of others that could scupper the project.
Haringey’s Labour Council failed to oppose the proposals for the plant even though Enfield, Camden and others united against it. The other councils were concerned about the potential impact of pollution and increased traffic on their residents. Haringey, it seems, had no such concerns.
Haringey Council is run by Labour of course, but the Tories need to shoulder their share of the responsibility for the plan too. Mayor Boris Johnson effectively washed his hands of the issue. He recently told the Liberal Democrat leader on the London Assembly that the site could be used for waste disposal.
Liberal Democrats in Haringey have consistently campaigned against the plan – which would have seen a huge plant built to process non-recyclable waste from seven boroughs across north London. My Lib Dem colleagues have worked hard to help stop the plans – people like councillor Juliet Soloman who has been a tireless campaigner on the issue. I have worked together with neighbouring Members of Parliament to support them. But if the plans are eventually abandoned, the Pinkham Way Alliance deserves a huge share of the credit.
The Pinkham Way Alliance is made up of local residents. Most of them are not local politicians, or at least they were not when they first started! Their motivation for getting involved was to stop plans that they felt threatened their neighbourhood. They will not stop campaigning just because the hearing has been suspended. They know that they need to keep the pressure on (and the celebrations on ice) until the end.
The residents involved in the Pinkham Way Alliance have shown once again that people do make a difference when they come together to campaign against an injustice. I wish them well and I hope you are campaigning about something too.
Lynne Featherstone, MP for Hornsey & Wood Green
Tel: 020 8340 5459
She blogs at www.LynneFeatherstone.org and is on Twitter at twitter.com/LFeatherstone
Email: [email protected] or write to me at House of Commons, London SW1A