CAMPAIGNERS, business owners and residents have expressed jubilation after county councillors voted down Veolia’s plans for a huge incinerator on the A31, near Alton.

More than 5,500 people made official objections to the plans, which were described by one council officer as “the most controversial” planning application since the 1990s.

Councillors, who objected to the impact it would have on the surrounding area – including the South Downs National Park – and disagreed on whether or not Hampshire truly needed another incinerator, voted against the plans by 12 votes to three on Wednesday, February 23.

After the meeting, elated locals shared their joy at the news.

Lorna Bailey, 54 from Upper Froyle, said: “I’m absolutely over the moon – I really didn’t expect them to reach that decision.

“It goes to show that the councillors were listening to our concerns. Especially in Upper Froyle, the smoke from the stacks would blow right over my house; people were planning on moving house because they or people they live with have asthma.

“We have a strong farming community where we live, and that shouldn’t be disrupted by building an incinerator.”

Fellow campaigner Ron Lafferty, 65, added: “The councillors did the people of Hampshire proud today.

“When you take a step back from it all, it’s clear this was the wrong place to build it – that’s not nimbyism, it’s just common sense.

“We have to take recycling much more seriously, and burning more waste is not the answer to that.”

For William Butler, proprietor of West End Flower Farm in Froyle, the future of his business depended on the decision.

He said: “I feel elated, absolutely elated – this was the right decision and common sense has clearly prevailed.

“If they had approved the application it would have been catastrophic, the air pollution alone would  have put the business into jeopardy.

“We will now have to wait and see what the future holds.”

A spokesman for the No Wey Incinerator campaign group added: “The councillors involved can be proud of their role in preventing Hampshire turning into ‘Dumpshire’, which was a very real possibility if this commercial proposition had been allowed to proceed.

“We would like to thank the thousands of supporters who backed us throughout this two year campaign and we hope that Veolia now realises that the rural Wey Valley is not the place for a massive commercial incinerator.”

The incinerator would have had the capacity to take 330,000 tonnes of waste per year – more than 1.5 times the amount taken by the incinerator in Portsmouth.

It would have been the fourth incinerator in Hampshire.

The building, which would have been 165 metres in length, equivalent to more than two Beoing 747 jumbo jets, and have two 80 metre-tall high emission stacks, equivalent to more than 18 double decker buses, was recommended for approval by council officers.

But instead of just collecting Hampshire waste, Veolia proposed incinerating waste from Dorset and Surrey as well.

Hampshire County Council’s Conservative member for Alton Rural, Cllr Mark Kemp-Gee, was the one who asked the county council to consider the plans.

He said prior to last week’s meeting: “The site itself is on a hill, which would make it one of the tallest landmarks in Hampshire. It’s an extraordinary place to put an incinerator.

“When you think about how that will look for all the beautiful rural villages nearby, the fact that the county council has recommended to approve it is a real blow.

“All of us are opposed to this but what’s more, there’s simply no need for it.

“We already have incinerators in Portsmouth, Southampton and Basingstoke, and with our household waste recycling centres as well the main focus should be recycling, not burning our waste.

“The bottom line is this incinerator is not for the people of Hampshire, it’s purely for Veolia’s benefit.”

Veolia has six months to decide whether or not to appeal Hampshire County Council’s ruling.