Campaigners have won a High Court battle and thrown plans for a £117 million waste incinerator project in the West Country into disarray.
In a judgment with important implications for new waste management schemes nationwide, a judge quashed Communities Secretary Eric Pickles's decision to grant planning permission for the incinerator project at St Dennis in Cornwall.
Mr Justice Collins, sitting at the High Court in London, ruled there had been a failure to properly consider whether the EU Habitats Directive required special assessment to be carried out before permission was granted.
However the judge, because of the general importance of his ruling, gave the Government permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal. Cornwall Council's decision to refuse planning permission for the project was overturned by the Communities Secretary following an appeal by contractor SITA Cornwall Ltd.
The company says the incinerator will generate enough electricity to supply 21,000 homes by burning 240,000 tons of non-recyclable household waste a year.
Lawyers for SITA said if the project was halted, or delayed, the total cost to council taxpayers from landfill tax and other costs could rise to well in excess of £200 million.
Acknowledging that "enormous" sums were involved, the judge said: "The problem that faces me is that the Habitats Directive and regulations are the law and must be obeyed."
Cornwall Council described the ruling on the proposed incinerator - the Cornwall Energy Recovery Centre project - as "extremely disappointing".
The authority said in a statement: "The council will be pressing for an early resolution as further delays will not only extend uncertainty over this process but could prove financially disastrous for people in Cornwall."
"The statement added that the council will be meeting SITA over the next few weeks to identify a series of interim measures to reduce costs and services throughout Cornwall.