TEAMS of lawyers turned up when councillors had an update on moves to resolve the long running controversy surrounding the Quinn Glass plant at Ince.

The solicitors, including representatives of Quinn competitors Ardagh Glass, listened intently to a meeting of Chester's planning board which had a detailed report on the current position.

This included the possibility of enforcement action against the existing development on the former Ince power station site which is being sought by Ardagh Glass.

A verbatim shorthand writer also took notes for the council.

The plant, which employs a workforce of several hundred to manufacture, fill and distribute glass bottles, does not have planning permission.

A fresh application by the company is now set to go before city councillors on Wednesday February 18, according to the report.

Chester's development co-ordination manager, Mr Brian Hughes, discloses that lawyers DLA Piper, acting on behalf of 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 a 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 an eight week public inquiry.

Quinn challenged her decision but withdrew last autumn.

The company submitted the fresh application earlier last year 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.

It will now be reported to the next meeting of the city's planning board on February 18, councillors heard.

On the possibility of enforcement, Mr Hughes says it is "unsatisfactory" that the plant is operating without permission and the implications of this should be considered.

He believes it is important the city council should retain control of the site and revealed a planning contravention notice had been served on the company.

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, the board heard.

"You still need to consider whether it is expedient to take enforcement action," stressed Mr Hughes.

"This has been effectively held off due to the challenge by Quinn and the intention to submit a planning application."

Following the withdrawal by the company of its High Court challenge, he describes the decision by the secretary of state to refuse permission following the public inquiry as "unqualified".

It would be a "serious factor" if the council did not consider enforcement action.

City councillors first decided in 2004 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 has been urging the council that enforcement action should be taken.

Mr Hughes argues there have been a number of changes in the circumstances including road improvements which have been completed at the junction of Ash Road and Ince Lane to meet the secretary of state's concerns and the laying of a low noise surface on Ash Road.

Quinn has also withdrawn its challenge and has submitted the fresh application.

He told councillors he did not believe enforcement action was required at this stage and could not be justified.

Mr Hughes also pointed out that next month's decision on the application "may not be the end of the matter."

The plans could be called in by the secretary of state, now Hazel Blears and there is the possibility of a challenge by third parties.

This could delay the outcome beyond November.

"The clock is still ticking and November is not far away," he suggested.

The application will transfer to the incoming Cheshire West and Chester Council and Mr Hughes believes it should continue to receive regular reports.

He is to meet Cheshire West and Chester environment director Mr Steve Kent to discuss this in the near future.

Mr Hughes recommended the board to note the new November deadline for any enforcement action and to agree that no steps should be taken at present.

Boughton Heath Cllr Jim Latham (Lib Dem) suggested to Mr Hughes:"It is very important that November is a secure assumption."

Asking for details of the difference between the approved plans and the plant which is operating now, he was told by Mr Hughes it is "substantially larger."

Planning chairman Cllr Andrew Storrar (Con, Saughall) moved the report and its recommendations should be agreed and was seconded by Cllr Paul Cheetham (Lib Dem, Vicars Cross).

Councillors agreed on a 10 - 0 vote that no enforcement action should be taken at present and that Cheshire West and Chester should be informed.