A CAMPAIGN group protesting against plans to build an incinerator near Longparish have called the borough council “heavy handed” after it was forced to remove signs fighting the bid.

Last month signs appeared alongside the A303 close to the village detailing “bintheincinerator.com”, but on Thursday last week the group were told that it must remove the banners or face legal action by Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC).

US company, Wheelabrator, has developed a proposal to build a waste to energy incinerator on the Enviropark owned by Raymond Brown, which has proved contentious with those living in the borough and beyond.

Andy Jolliffe, spokesperson for the Keep Test Valley Beautiful, bintheincinerator.com group, said: "If Test Valley received a complaint I can understand that they had to act. However, they really pulled their fingers out with this - which from experience isn't always the case."

He said campaigners believed the banners did not require planning permission because they were on trailers and therefore mobile but it turned out not to be the case.

"You see similar mobile banners alongside motorways in the Midlands and North so I think the council is being pretty heavy handed. They even issued formal warning of prosecution, similar to a police warning. That was completely unnecessary."

Mr Jolliffe said it is essential that people are made aware of the proposed incinerator to allow them to form an opinion.

Chris Hewitt, manager of the Middleton Estate where the banners were erected, said: “It is disappointing but we had absolutely no intention to do anything which broke the law."

A TVBC spokesperson said: “The council launched an investigation, as we are legally obliged to do, after we received a complaint that the advertisements had been erected without the required consent. As we determined that they did not have the appropriate consent we asked the landowners to remove them and this has now been done.

“The content of the advertisement itself had no bearing whatsoever on the council’s approach in this case and in no way reflects its views on the proposals for the waste-to-energy facility, or climate change.

“The proposal to develop a new waste-to-energy facility at Harewood is a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project and any application will be determined by the Planning Inspectorate, not Test Valley Borough Council. However, the council will be consulted on the proposal, as will the local community.”