A MASSIVE rubbish-burning incinerator has been voted through at Worcestershire County Council – 16 years after it was first proposed.

Today's crunch debate to bring the £165 million plant to Hartlebury trading estate, which will be open by 2017, was backed by 42 votes to 11 amid tense scenes at County Hall.

The decision brings an end to years of uncertainty, with work on constructing the massive plant getting underway in the spring.

It came despite last-ditch pleas from campaigners, who claimed it would damage the environment, prove too costly and could be made redundant by new technology within years.

But the criticism was rejected by politicians, who insisted it was the best value-for-money option, would prevent a landfill crisis, and would benefit taxpayers.

The plant will handle up to 200,000 tonnes of rubbish from Worcestershire and Herefordshire, burning it to generate electricity to connect to the national grid.

At the start of the debate Rob Wilden, from Herefordshire and Worcestershire Action Group, said: “You’ll be transporting 200,000 tonnes of waste across our beautiful county, shame on you.

“When confidence in your position turns to aloof arrogance, the warning signs are there for all to see.”

Fellow campaigner Louise Brookes said: “We are deeply concerned about the cost to taxpayers.

“Recycling is important because it pays - burning our resources is not wise.”

But councillors said the plant is desperately needed because the county’s landfill space is forecast to be full by 2024, meaning time is running out for alternatives.

A report by the authority’s officers says although the cost of dealing with the county’s waste by 2042 would be £1.6 billion, not having an incinerator and carrying on using more landfill would see it top £2.1 billion.

Councillor Adrian Hardman, the leader, said: “What we’re coming up with is an imaginative and creative solution to a problem we must solve.

“We need a long-term waste disposal solution and this is the best, cheapest way – if we delay this move, we face major risks.”

Councillor Fran Oborski said she felt the council was “galloping down the road of old technology” but Coun John Campion, a Tory, said it had “been debated many times” and had to be accepted.

Conservative Councillor Maurice Broomfield, who represents the area and voted against it, said it would discourage people to recycle and pleaded to throw it out.

It was backed by the entire opposition Labour group, apart from Councillor Paul Denham, who walked out of the chamber and reappeared once the voting was over.

Despite opposition from the Green Party, UKIP and a handful of independents or minor party politicians, it was also backed by the Liberal Democrats and the controlling Conservatives apart from Coun Broomfield.

The site will be run by West Mercia Waste Management but will be handed back to Worcestershire and Herefordshire councils to operate from 2023.

The construction will create 255 jobs, while 45 permanent roles will be available once it opens.