MOVES to resolve the long running controversy surrounding the Quinn Glass plant at Ince are due to be considered by city councillors next month (February), it is to be revealed.
Chester's planning board is to have a detailed report on Wednesday (January 28) on the current position including enforcement action against the existing development on the Ince power station site.
The plant, which manufactures, fills and distributes glass bottles, does not have planning permission.
An application by the company to regularise the position is now set to go before city councillors on Wednesday February 18, according to the report.
Chester’s development co-ordination manager, Brian Hughes, discloses that lawyers DLA Piper, acting on behalf of competitors Ardagh Glass, are considering the possibility of a judicial review.
This would seek to compel the city council to decide the planning application and take enforcement action.
It has now emerged the period during which enforcement action can be taken extends into the late autumn rather than this spring as previously suggested.
The council has "responded fully" to the pre action letter from DLA Piper says Mr Hughes.
Planning permission for the glass plant was originally granted in 2003.
Quinn then sought to increase the overall size of the development and this was also approved by the city council.
The decision was quashed when it was challenged in the High Court by competitors Rockware Glass, now Ardagh Glass.
A revised planning application was put forward in 2004 and approved by the Town Hall although that was called in by the then secretary of state Ruth Kelly and planning permission was rejected following a public inquiry.
Quinn challenged that decision but withdrew last autumn.
The company submitted a further planning application earlier last year to regularise the position and to overcome the concerns of the department for communities and local government.
"This application is extremely complex and is being subjected to a rigorous examination of all the issues by a number of officers," says Mr Hughes.
"It also contains a number of highly technical features which has required the council to retain specialist consultants to advise on the technical issues".
The plans are said to have been subject to "extensive consultation" with local residents and regulatory bodies.
This consultation has highlighted a number of issues which have required further explanation or clarification, according to Mr Hughes.
Changes have also been made to parts of the application, including revised proposals for noise measures, which have required further consultation with residents.
"As matters stand currently, it is proposed that the application will be reported to the next meeting of the planning board on February 18", Mr Hughes will tell councillors.
On the possibility of enforcement, Mr Hughes says that work started in 2004 and the site is fully operational.
The council must be satisfied it would be expedient to take action and must consider issues such as the Human Rights Act apart from planning policies and European environmental legislation, he points out.
City councillors decided in 2004 it would be premature to consider whether or not enforcement action should be taken but later the same year found there was no evidence which would justify measures.
They again agreed in 2007 it would not be expedient to take action against Quinn and have since had a number of further reports which have reached the same conclusion.
In the meantime, Ardagh have been urging the council that measures should be taken.
Mr Hughes reveals a planning contravention notice was served on the company and the outcome of this, together with other information, suggests the site will not be immune from enforcement action until November this year, rather than this spring as previously believed.
He argues there have been a number of changes in the circumstances including road improvements which are being carried out at the junction of Ash Road and Ince Lane to meet the government’s concerns and a low noise surface being laid on Ash Road.
Quinn has withdrawn its challenge to the secretary of state's refusal of planning permission and has submitted the further application to deal with her objections.
Mr Hughes will tell councillors he does not believe enforcement action is required at this stage and cannot be justified.
He points out it may still be necessary in the future to take steps and that councillors could also decide not to grant permission.
It would be possible for the secretary of state to take control of the application and a legal challenge could be made by Ardagh Glass.
"In those circumstances, it will be imperative for the council to maintain frequent and regular reviews of the enforcement position," he suggests.
Mr Hughes is asking the planning board to note the new November date by which any enforcement action should be taken and to agree that no steps should be taken at this stage.
He stresses that regular reports should continue to be submitted "so that the planning position and need for enforcement can be closely monitored".
The issue is due to be discussed at a meeting of the planning board taking place on Wednesday at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Chester at 10.30am.