CONTROVERSIAL plans for a huge waste incinerator have been given the go-ahead by the Government.

The decision removes the last hurdle from plans to start building the £120 million plant at Hartlebury, near Kidderminster, which backers say will save the Worcestershire council taxpayer millions of pounds over the next 20 years and stop tonnes of household waste ending up in landfill.

However, opponents fear the plant will produce air and noise pollution, and clog the roads with waste-laden trucks around the Hartlebury trading estate site.

Up to 200,000 tonnes of waste a year from Worcestershire and Herefordshire could be burnt at the site, producing heat and electricity.

Announcing the decision yesterday, Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, said there was “a compelling and urgent need for the facility” and “no suitable alternative”.

He said the special case of the incinerator meant the project could go ahead, despite its location in the green belt – which had been a key argument of the opposition campaign.

Worcestershire County Council , which currently has to dump the county’s rubbish in the Throckmorton landfill site near Evesham, and Mercia Waste Management, which wants to build the EnviRecover incinerator, strongly backed the plan.

But one high-profile opponent, Mid-Worcestershire MP Peter Luff , said there would be “no happy ending” for the opposition campaign’s “David and Goliath” story.

Coun Anthony Blagg, the county’s elected head of waste, welcomed the conclusion, saying the incinerator would complement the Envirosort recycling centre at Norton near Worcester.

"Sitting back and doing nothing simply was not an option because of the environmental and financial impact that it would have had in the future,” he said.

The government is forcing councils to avoid sending waste to landfill by rapidly raising the landfill tax councils – and therefore council taxpayers – must pay on every tonne dumped in the ground.

The plant will provide enough power for 20,000 homes, and will be able to supply heating for nearby businesses, according to Mercia Waste.

The firm’s director John Plant said the planning process had been “rigorous”, with a “broad public consultation”.

Work on the plant could start at the end of the year and it would be operational by late 2015 at the earliest.