A CONTROVERSIAL new waste incineration plant will be built in Hatfield and not in Radlett, it has been confirmed.

Hertfordshire County Council, which made the announcement just minutes ago, had been seeking to build an electricity-generating waste incineration unit in one of two locations: Harper Lane, Radlett, or New Barnfield, South Hatfield.

The council claims the PFI-funded plant, to be built by French energy giant Veolia, will save taxpayers an estimated £544million over an initial contracted period of 25 years.

Officers say it will greatly reduce the more than £32million the council currently spends disposing of waste each year – a sum that is expected to rise dramatically in the coming years as hikes to landfill taxes and punitive European fines take their toll.

But furious campaigners, dozens of whom attended two crucial meetings at County Hall this morning, claim the plant will create pollution, blight their homes, increase traffic and even cut existing recycling rates across the country.

Hugh Jones, of the Watling Incinerator Group (WING), welcomed the news that Radlett had been spared but claimed councillors had failed taxpayers across the county by refusing to scrap the plan altogether.

He said: “What they should have done is scrapped it altogether. I am pleased that our argument has had some effect but I feel sorry that the council still wanted to push this through in Hatfield. We opposed this because it should not be happening anywhere.”

Councillors discussed the issue at two sessions this morning, a waste management panel and separate cabinet meeting. At the first meeting, members questioned again and again whether an energy from waste plant was needed at all.

Labour group leader Councillor Sharon Taylor claimed that the Conservative administration was rushing through a decision because it was running out of time to spend the more than £115million it had already been awarded in government PFI credits – designed to offset the cost of the project and minimise the impact on taxpayers.

She added: “These are private companies and they are obviously going to come up with the solutions that are the most profitable for them…are we being driven here by the time table for PFI and not what’s best for the people of Hertfordshire?”

Council officers denied this was the case but did admit that a decision to refuse both applications could open the door for costly legal action. Council papers also confirm that the authority has already spent more than £4.4million on a lengthy procurement and consultation process, adding that the council’s reputation would be damaged if both applications were rejected.

Other members, including Councillor Morris Bright, leader of Hertsmere Borough Council, sought assurances that recycling rates would not suffer as a result.

He sought and was given an assurance that, at no point in the future, recyclable waste would not be incinerated for economic reasons.