A LEADING Worcestershire politician has admitted he can understand campaigners’ anger over proposals for a £120 million incinerator in Hartlebury.

Councillor John Smith said he “would not want it” in his own back yard but has insisted the plan is the best way of disposing of rubbish.

Coun Smith is a former cabinet member for the environment at Worcestershire County Council, and was one of the politicians responsible for exploring alternatives 10 years ago.

Campaigners from the Herefordshire and Worcestershire Action Group have been bitterly fighting the plan, but despite the opposition £1.8 million is being spent on clearing the site for the scheme.

Coun Smith said: “I can understand the locals who don’t want it, if it was in your back yard or mine I wouldn’t want it either.

“But as a council we have taken independent advice on this and the answer is that this path is the right one to take.

“Many years ago when I was looking at all the options a new method was being developed whereby the waste could have been used as a substitute for concrete and other materials, but time has moved on now and this system is the best one we’ve got available.

“There may well be something even better in 50 years time, but we can’t afford to wait that long, we must find a solution now.

“We can’t do nothing – the amount of rubbish we are generating is increasing, more new homes are being built.

“Where will we dump all the rubbish? It can’t all go to landfill.”

The incinerator will power electricity to 20,000 homes by burning rubbish and is being launched under the management of West Mercia Waste.

Two weeks ago the county council’s cabinet agreed to investigate alternative funding for the facility amid concerns bank loans may not provide the best value for money.

In the meantime £1.8m has been put towards cleaning up the land.

Critics believe the total bill to taxpayers during the lifetime of the 25-year contract could reach £1 billion, but this has been rejected.

It will handle waste from Worcestershire and Herefordshire, where disposal costs total £39 million a year at the moment, and is likely to import rubbish from other counties.

Landfill taxes stand at £64 per tonne now, but will rise by £8 every year up to 2020, resulting in major pressure from the Government to find new solutions.

The new incinerators are also known as ‘energy from waste’ plants.