Plans to build a £200 million waste incinerator – likened to a Martian invader from the science fiction classic War of the Worlds – in ancient Devon woodland, have been turned down.
Councillors decided the impact on the local landscape around Ivybridge and Lee Mill of the facility's giant, rust-coloured dome and protruding chimneys was too damaging.
Devon County Council's development management committee unanimously refused the scheme, at New England Quarry, on the edge of Dartmoor, claiming it was "unsympathetic to the rural character" of the area.
Janet Chapman, from Yealmpton, pleaded with the committee not to commit the "sacrilege" of allowing such a "hideous great monstrosity" to blight the countryside.
Viridor wants to build the waste-burning facility and landfill beside the river Yealm valley, less than two miles from the National Park. The site is designated for such use by the South West Devon Waste Partnership – a group made up of Torbay, Plymouth and Devon County council – but the key access road is not and passes through ancient woodland.
Planning officers indicated the application was unlikely to succeed in future unless a less harmful route in and out for the proposed 150 lorries each day was found.
Opponents claim the company, which lost its bid to build an incinerator at Plymouth's North Yard to MVV Umwelt, would now be unable to find the proposed feedstock for the burner of 275,000 tonnes of domestic waste.
Conservative councillor for Yealmpton Will Mumford said commercial waste from neighbouring Dorset, Somerset and Cornwall would have to be shipped in, turning the area into a "waste ghetto" for the south west of England.
Viridor's business development director Howard Ellard admitted that domestic waste input would be "modest" but argued there was a huge under-capacity for treating commercial waste in Devon which the firm would seek to exploit.
After the meeting yesterday, Mr Ellard said he was "angry" with a decision which would lead to the mass exporting of industrial waste as far as Avonmouth and with it "jobs and investment".
"The site is clearly identified as suitable for waste management in Devon County Council's own Waste Local Plan, and we still believe it is an appropriate location for such a facility," he added. He said Viridor would be considering the reasons behind the refusal.
Charlotee Mills, of the protest group EcoIvy, said: "I imagine they will appeal but the council have chosen to refuse it on grounds that will be difficult to mitigate."