A PLANNING boss has denied councillors are stalling for time to enable an unauthorised glass factory to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the law.
Brian Hughes, Chester City Council development co-ordination manager, accepts the Quinn Glass bottling factory at Ince would gain immunity from enforcement action if it was allowed to exist for four years even though it doesn’t have planning permission.
And this is the fear of rival firm Ardagh Glass which claims the deadline for determination of a planning application to regularise the situation expires in April.
But Mr Hughes insists the application will be decided by the planning boards of Chester city and Ellesmere Port & Neston borough councils, with a meeting scheduled for February 18 and, in any case, he believes the deadline is later than April.
Referring to an earlier meeting in 2007, Mr Hughes said: “If it has been substantially completed for four years it achieves immunity from enforcement action but we said at that time that we cannot allow that to happen. We cannot allow the development to proceed with impunity.”
Mr Hughes said enforcement action against the factory had been previously considered by councillors but this was not thought sensible given Quinn Glass was prepared to submit a new planning application.
Enforcement action will be considered again on January 28 in light of concerns about the impending four-year deadline. However, he indicated action was unlikely given a decision on the plans will be taken soon.
“If members don’t support the planning application we will be happy to think about enforcement,” said Mr Hughes.
He added that if members backed the scheme then it would have to be examined by the Government for a decision over whether to ‘call in' the plans for a public inquiry.
Mr Hughes said the application was submitted early last year but processing it had taken a long time due to complex technical issues surrounding plans for a bio-fuel system which would reduce the plant’s carbon emissions. He said residents had expressed concerns about night-time lorry traffic along Ash Road.
He said it may be the case that the final decision over the plant is actually made by the new Cheshire West and Chester Council, which comes into being on April 1, although the earlier determination was likely to be rubber-stamped.