SNJ reporter Chris Warne has been covering the incinerator story for the past 18 months but was unable to attend the planning committee last week because of an operation. This is his reaction to the decision.

JUBILATORY scenes and an overwhelming sense of euphoria prevailed in the Kingsholm conference room in the immediate aftermath of the planning committee's unanimous decision to refuse permission for the Javelin Park incinerator.

The sudden outpouring of joy came as no surprise to anyone familiar with the exploits of the opposition campaigners, who over the past half-decade have invested an incredible amount of passion, time, energy and effort into defeating the proposals.

Typified by their leader Sue Oppenheimer, the indomitable chairman of GlosVAIN who has selflessly and tirelessly devoted several years of her life to campaigning against the project, at the close of play on Thursday night they felt their voices had finally been listened to.

The scheme was ultimately thrown out on aesthetic grounds - the significant loss to the open character and natural rural appearance of that part of the Severn Vale was judged to be too great.

Yet, the visual impact was only one of a number of compelling arguments made against the facility by its opponents.

They said the whole project was 'fundamentally flawed' because not enough rubbish was being produced in the county to justify it, there was already evidence of waste treatment overcapacity in the region and the technology being proposed was outdated, inflexible, inefficient, expensive and environmentally damaging.

Supporters of the scheme have often tried to frame the public debate as a straight choice between incineration and landfill - burn it or bury it, they said.

But that was always a false dichotomy and after a long battle the anti-incinerator campaigners were eventually able to convince councillors that better, viable, greener alternatives do exist.

The fact that Urbaser Balfour Beatty is itself building a Mechanical Biological Treatment plant in Essex certainly helped to bolster the protesters' case.

Their victory is the second stunning illustration of the collective force of people power in the space of just a few months - coming so soon after the successful campaign led by Keep Gloucestershire's NHS Public to prevent community health services from being put out to tender and most likely privatised.

The Javelin Park development was perhaps a grave miscalculation by the county council - seeking to impose a mass burn incinerator on a district like Stroud, with its proud tradition of protest and progressive thinking, especially on green issues.

Yet, the Conservatives sitting on that planning committee deserve credit for judging the application on its merits and making an objective decision in the best interests of Gloucestershire and its taxpayers.

Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens will claim victory and to a great extent they have every right to do so - much of their opposition was principled and not simply about political point scoring.

Of course, some sceptics may interpret the Conservative move to reject planning permission as a cynical political gamble or an exercise in damage limitation ahead of May's local elections but the decision could equally be viewed as an act of immense political courage.

Changing course is too often construed as a sign of weakness when it should be seen as a sign of strength.

The wisdom of signing the contract with UBB before the planning committee had decided the application, however, will no doubt become the subject of intense scrutiny and fierce debate in the weeks to follow.

Because GCC had put pen to paper prematurely and planning permission was refused, the authority will now have to hand over up to £16 million of taxpayer's money to UBB to cover the company's costs of putting together its bid.

The Conservative's political opponents will argue that is money the county can ill-afford to lose when it is having to make cuts to essential public services.

Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, could, in theory, still call the application in and determine it himself.

But if he truly believes in localism, he will respect the views of the parish, town, district and borough councils and the more than 4,000 residents who expressed opposition to the scheme.

When you consider that the Conservative Party will have to win seats in the south of England to keep alive any hopes of winning an overall majority at the 2015 general election, it becomes extremely unlikely that Mr Pickles will reverse the decision and force through the incinerator from on high. 

UBB has already announced that it is 'minded to appeal the decision' and is seeking planning and legal advice to that end.

However, a challenge is by no means inevitable given the unanimous verdict and previous planning decisions, like the rejection of a wind farm in the Vale of Berkley which seemed to set a precedent against such large-scale developments so close to the Cotswold AONB.

One member of GlosVAIN was certainly confident that the group would triumph should the application go before an inspector.

He compared GCC's unanimous and unexpected refusal to an 18-0 away win in football, adding that fighting any subsequent appeal from UBB would be like playing the second leg on home turf.

True, GlosVAIN may not have won the war yet, but it may have just won its most important battle.