A MASSIVE £23.5 million renewable energy plant on a former mine site on York's southern edge has been approved after the government decided not to put it through a public inquiry.

Controversial plans for a anaerobic waste digestion plant and horticultural glasshouse on green belt land between Escrick, Wheldrake and Deighton attracted hundreds of objections when were first put forward in 2012.

But now the future of the scheme - said to be worth £2.2 million a year to the local economy - looks secure after a government announcement that City of York council's planning approval can stand.

The North Selby Mine Action Group which formed the fight the plans and chairman Tim Williams said the approval came as a shock to the group.

He said: "We are very disappointed at this outcome, and all I can say at the moment is that we are currently evaluating our options."

Mr Williams added: "Our expectation was that the Secretary of State was going to call it in, and prevent the council from making a decision. But for whatever reason, that has been rescinded."

York MP Julian Sturdy and Selby MP Nigel Adams have both spoken against the plans, and yesterday Mr Sturdy pledged to carry on a battle against the project.

He said: "It is abundantly clear to my constituents and I that this application does not qualify for the special circumstances necessary to allow for a development of this nature on greenbelt land, and it is very concerning that these are not being upheld by City of York Council.

"Over the coming weeks and months I will continue to work with local residents as well as ward Cllr George Barton, as we persist in challenging this application through all available avenues."

York councillors first approved the scheme in April last year, but their decision was overturned thanks to a legal challenge by campaigners.

It was approved again in January this year, but in early April the government stopped the council issuing a formal decision, throwing more doubt on the project's future.

But the government has now written to the council confirming it will not fully investigate the plans, and planning approval has been officially granted.

The plant will bring 68 full time jobs to the area, according to developers Peel Environmental, as well as 16 extra jobs during the commissioning period and 125 construction jobs.

The company's development manager Richard Barker said:

“We are obviously pleased about the decision by the Secretary of State not to call in the application, which brings us closer to delivering the Anaerobic Digestion facility and Horticultural Glasshouse at the former North Selby Mine site.

“The project represents a multi-million pound investment into the local economy, it will create jobs and deliver 20,000 tonnes of carbon savings each year by producing renewable energy.”

The North Selby Mine was one of five satellite sites from the Selby Mine Complex, and stopped producing coal in 1999. The news of its redevelopment comes just weeks after nearby Kellingley Colliery, the only remaining deep pit mine in North Yorkshire, announced its closure with the imminent loss of 700 jobs.