Oxfordshire County Council’s £100m plans for a waste incinerator were dealt a bodyblow today when its own planning committee rejected schemes to build at both Ardley and Sutton Courtenay.

The committee had been recommended to approve both planning applications by Viridor at Ardley — the council’s chosen tenderer — and a rival bid by Waste Recycling Group for Sutton Courtenay.

But they threw out both applications on the grounds that they conflict with district council Local Plans for both areas, which aim to protect the open countryside from “large permanent buildings”.

Protesters who have fought against both schemes were delighted last night – but it remained unclear what the next step by both Viridor and Oxfordshire County Council would be.

County spokesman Paul Smith said: “Following the decisions today, the county council will consider its options.”

The proposed Ardley incinerator would be able to burn up to 300,000 tonnes of non-recylable waste a year. The county council’s cabinet last month chose Viridor’s tender to run a facility for 25 years.

The planning committee rejected Viridor’s application by nine votes to five, while WRG’s bid was rejected by seven votes to six.

Jon O’Neill, chairman of Ardley Against the Incinerator, thanked councillors who voted against giving planning permission.

He said: “It was good to see councillors making their own decisions and not being whipped along party political lines.

“There may be a chance for Viridor to appeal against this decision and we will be ready to fight.”

Callum MacKenzie, a spokesman for Sutton Courtenay against the Incinerator, said: “This is great news for Oxfordshire.

“WRG could not convince councillors that they would properly seal off any hazardous waste before it was transported for disposal and I think that tipped the balance in our favour.

“The vote was too close for comfort, but I think WRG would be foolish to persist with their plans now.”

Fellow Sutton Courtenay campaigner Edmund Rowley-Williams added: “This is very good news, but we remain on our guard in case WRG try to reverse the process.”

Out of 15 county councillors on the planning committee, 10 were Conservative, two Labour and two Liberal Democrat, with Ploughley Tory county councillor Catherine Fulljames deciding not to vote after she was advised that she should declare an interest.

She lives near Ardley and said: “I would have voted against the incinerator because it would have been an eyesore and traffic in the surrounding area would have increased significantly.”

Ardley campaigners told the committee they were concerned about increased traffic on the B430 and on the M40.

John Tanner, Labour county councillor for Isis, said: “Putting waste in holes in the ground is the worst thing you can do.

“The next worst thing you can do is set fire to it.

“Cherwell district council’s objection to the Ardley incinerator is that there would be a permanent industrial building in rural open land.

“This is yesterday’s technology and nobody knows how much waste will be created over the next 25 years.”

Following the meeting, Alan Armitage, Liberal Democrat county councillor for West Central Oxford, said the two firms could appeal against the council’s decision.

He added: “They could appeal to the Government and an appeal could prompt a planning inquiry.”