THE Government will have the final say on whether a £23.5 million green energy development can be built in countryside near York after city councillors backed the controversial scheme.

Peel Environmental’s plans for an anaerobic digestion plant, which would convert organic waste into power for thousands of homes, at the North Selby Mine site near Deighton, Wheldrake and Escrick were passed on a 10-5 vote by City of York Council’s planning committee.

The scheme must now be referred to Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles because of its green belt location.

The council originally approved the development last year, despite 362 objections, but it had to be debated again because of an error in a report by planning officials.

The renewed application drew a further 60 objections. The scheme was also opposed by nearby parish councils, local MPs Julian Sturdy and Nigel Adams and Wheldrake councillor George Barton.

Peel said the plant would create 56 full-time and 50 seasonal jobs and 256 construction roles, add about £2 million a year to the local economy and reduce annual CO2 emissions by about 20,000 tonnes.

Residents said it would cause traffic problems on the A19 and lorries turning out of the site would create safety risks.

In addition, Peel had not shown the “very special circumstances” needed to allow the £17.5 million energy plant and a £6 million horticultural glasshouse – intended to open in 2016 – to be built in the green belt. One objector, Walter Bedford, said the development next to his farm would infringe his “basic human rights”.

Richard Barker, Peel’s development manager, said: “We are pleased councillors have given our project the green light and recognised the significant benefits the plans will deliver, including providing new employment opportunities and diverting waste from landfill.

“We firmly believe our plans represent a good use of this site. The privately funded project will be a significant investment in York at a time when local authorities are searching for economic growth and innovative solutions for waste disposal.”

Tim Williams, of the North Selby Mine Action Group, said campaigners believed “flawed” evidence was used to support the scheme.

He said: “We are disappointed and not convinced there was enough transparent debate about locating a site like this in the green belt.

“We are reviewing our options and will wait and see how this scheme progresses with the Secretary of State.”