A £140 MILLION plan to build a rubbish incinerator about half a mile from a conservation village last night sparked controversy.
Viridor Waste Management, one of the UK's largest firms in the industry, wants to burn 450,000 tonnes of non-hazardous waste a year at a site near picturesque Innerwick, East Lothian.
The company is due to begin leafleting householders today as part of a PR campaign to win support for the plan.
However, environmental groups and some residents have expressed worries about the prospect of such a facility in the area - and its emissions.
Angela Foster, chairwoman of East Lammermuir Community Council, said: "We want to know the full implications of this project, in terms of its impact on the environment and the local community.
"There are obviously concerns about it. People in Innerwick, for example, are concerned about the visual impact, never mind the possible dangers.
Stuart Hay, head of policy and research at Friends of the Earth Scotland, added: "We're really concerned about this. No-one really wants one these big facilities on their doorsteps and there are other ways of dealing with waste.
"Such an incinerator could 'cap' recycling levels in the Lothians because while around 70 per cent of waste could be recycled, it will be seen as simpler just to burn it."
Stephen Bunyon, chairman of Dunbar Community Council, described the proposal as "a very delicate issue".
The proposed site - just off the A1 near Dunbar - is close to Torness nuclear power station and the Lafarge cement works, in the grounds of Viridor's landfill site at Oxwell Mains.
Firm proposals are expected to be lodged with East Lothian Council later this year.
Campaigners say the plan is a "preemptive strike" in a bid to win a contract potentially worth millions of pounds to burn domestic and business waste for Scottish local authorities.
Viridor said the energy-from-waste plant would provide around 47 jobs and supply power to the National Grid.
Jacquie Bell, the Liberal Democrat councillor for Dunbar and East Lothian, said: "Incineration is only one option and it has not been popular in other parts of the UK. Obviously, Viridor's planning application will be considered like any other."
Robert Aldridge, City of Edinburgh Council's environment convener, last night said Viridor's PR campaign was "premature". He said: "Our top priority is to prevent waste from ending up as landfill by reducing the amount of waste we produce and by increasing the amount of recycling we do in the city.
"We have no agreement or contract with any company to treat waste and Viridor's comments are entirely speculative and premature."
A spokesman for the company said: "Viridor Waste Management is preparing a detailed planning application.
"As part of their public consultation process, the company will be asking local residents for their views on the proposals. Where possible, comments and suggestions will be incorporated into the design of the facility and the associated planning application."