Cheshire residents have come together in one of the most fiercely fought campaigns to oppose municipal waste incinerators since six were proposed to dispose of their rubbish. They claim that their county is in danger of becoming "the most incinerator-contaminated place in Britain".
So far 10,000 people have signed up to the non-political Cheshire Anti-Incinerator Network (Chain). Chief among them is the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.
Under a scheme proposed in 2009 on the western fringes of his Tatton constituency, a UK subsidiary of the giant Indian Tata group, one of the world's leading producers of industrial chemicals, has been seeking to build a vast new "energy-from-waste" facility (incinerator) handling up to 600,000 tonnes of bio-mass and pre-treated waste each year.
Proposed by the company Brunner Mond, it would be developed and operated by the German energy giant E.ON, and would provide power to drive its existing soda ash plant.
Campaigners claim that should it go ahead, the incinerator at Lostock Gralam, near Northwich, will be one of Europe's largest and produce 60 tonnes of toxic waste each day, necessitating hundreds of extra lorry journeys and the need to import waste from outside the county in order for it to be viable. In August, Mr Osborne, who as shadow Chancellor was the first signatory to a 25,000-name petition against the scheme, wrote to a constituent to tell them that he had met Brunner Mond executives to explain his opposition to the plant and that it posed a threat to the "environment and people's quality of life".
The incinerator has bypassed the local planning process because of the project's size, councillors having already rejected several similar and smaller proposals.
The planning application for the new plant, situated close to a local school, supermarket, DIY store and homes, will be dealt with instead by the Department of Energy and Climate change in Whitehall, where civil servants have already received 3,000 formal complaints. A decision is expected early next year.
Brunner Mond has held a series of public exhibitions where it claimed that 92 per cent of those who attended understood the need for the development.