AN ambition has been revealed to create a visitor attraction at a controversial £1.4b waste recycling centre which dominates the skyline of the main road to the North.

The Allerton Park waste recycling centre, beside the A1, near Knaresborough, which is set to start full operations next week, has been dubbed a “blot on the landscape” by locals who say they’ll be closely monitoring how it works.

But North Yorkshire County Council, City of York Council and contractors Amey, who have developed the colossal complex, hope it will become a popular attraction, as well as generating electricity to power up to 40,000 homes. It has emerged a visitor centre, Claro House, is under construction to host visits from schools and interested parties.

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The centre will feature a series of waste recycling units for metal and plastic, an anaerobic digester and an incinerator which will generate electricity to power up to 40,000 homes. Construction has been completed and technical testing of the main areas of the site is being carried out over the next few months.

Plans for the plant proved hugely controversial, with protestors mounting legal challenges against the scheme and collecting a 10,000-name petition, before and after planning permission was eventually given in 2012. In September 2014 there were calls for a rethink after government funding was withdrawn. But the authority carried on arguing the centre will save £132m over 25 years, reduce the carbon footprint and avoid shovelling thousands of tonnes of waste every year into increasingly expensive holes in the ground.

A report to the council's transport scrutiny committee said: “The facility is due to commence full operations on 31 January. Allerton Waste Recovery Park treats waste through a series of processes including mechanical separation of recyclable materials, anaerobic digestion and thermal treatment through incineration and generation of electricity.” To mitigate the visual and landscape impact of the plant a fund of £839,500 was set up, councillors were told £400,000 has been distributed so far.

Harrogate Borough councillor Christine Willoughby said:” A lot of people do feel it is a blot on the landscape, I’m astonished that it can be seen from so many places. I was concerned that this was going to be a white elephant and we will be keeping a very close eye on how it develops and whether it does what we were told it was going to do.”