CAMPAIGNERS are set to consider legal action after a plan to build a controversial waste digester near Ellisfield was given the go-ahead.

The regulatory committee at Hampshire County Council went against planning policy in giving approval for an anaerobic digester to be built on a greenfield site in Bushywarren Lane, off the A339, on the Herriard Estate.

The digester will break down farm silage and commercial food waste from a 20-mile radius to generate electricity for 2,000 homes.

Around 20 members of the campaign group Waste Not Wanted attended the meeting in Winchester last Wednesday, and held up placards while councillors discussed the proposals.

They believe the digester is unnecessary, will spoil the countryside and bring more congestion to the A339.

Mark Thomas, from Ellisfield, spoke against the proposal at the meeting. Afterwards, he told The Gazette : “I’m very disappointed. It seems that we have increasing industrialisation in our countryside.

“We will probably consider a legal challenge and we will take advice to see whether that’s possible.”

Council officers had recommended the plan, by Barfoots, for approval.

Peter Chadwick, head of planning development, told the meeting that approval would be an “acceptable departure” from its policy not to develop greenfield sites because the plant produces renewable energy, the site was not high-quality countryside, and was not near houses.

But Councillor David Simpson, Liberal Democrat member for Hartley Wintney, Eversley and Yateley West, said: “We really ought to be asking what on earth our policies are for. If we want an industrial site, we should be open about it and test it in public inquiries. That is the proper way of doing things in this county and country.”

Other councillors supported the application, saying other countries like Germany had many anaerobic digesters and that the plant was more agricultural than industrial.

Members voted nine to four for approval, with no abstentions.