CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a £900m waste incinerator in North Yorkshire have overcome another hurdle after councillors in York approved the project despite local opposition.
The contract, which would see international waste management company AmeyCespa handling the county's rubbish for the next 25 years, was backed by 36 votes to five at a full meeting of York Council last night.
AmeyCespa wants to build the incinerator on the site of the existing Allerton aggregates quarry between Harrogate and York – and to have it running by 2015.
But almost 10,000 people have signed petitions in protest at the proposal – which will next be considered at a full meeting of North Yorkshire Council on Wednesday.
The move has already been supported by members of North Yorkshire's executive, but protesters will urge opposition councillors to vote against it. However, if the deal is approved, it will be the largest council contract ever awarded in North Yorkshire.
AmeyCespa, which has already announced an open day for businesses wanting to get involved, has claimed the incinerator will create 70 jobs and pump at least 300m into the local economy.
Company chiefs hope to submit a planning application next year and expect more than 400 staff, including a number of specialist contractors, to be working on the site during the busiest construction periods.
The facility will include a mechanical treatment plant, to sort metals, plastics, paper and cardboard for recycling, and an anaerobic digestion plant, designed to produce green energy by processing up to 40,000 tonnes of food and organic waste a year.
Campaigners say the councils should be looking at alternatives to incineration and placing more emphasis on improving recycling.
But senior officers from both councils have claimed building the facility is vital to avoid having to pay millions of pounds in fines for waste ending up in landfill.
The councils have a target to be recycling and composting at least half of the household waste they collect by 2020 – but a report to councillors suggests this will be achieved at least five years ahead of schedule if the incinerator is approved.
York Council's Liberal Democrat executive were accused of hypocrisy earlier this month after it emerged the party had pledged to oppose waste incineration in its 2003 manifesto.
Council leader Andrew Waller said he was aware of the 2003 pledge but felt the executive had no choice but to accept the plans.
Three Liberal Democrats voted against the plans last night, along with two Green Party members.
Steve Wright, the chairman of North Yorkshire Waste Action Group, which opposes the plans, said: "It is total hypocrisy from York Council. They have publicly stated there will be no incineration in York, but they are happy to export their waste for incineration at Allerton. We are hopeful that the councillors in Northallerton will see reason and listen to the groundswell of opposition."