ENFORCEMENT issues at the Quinn Glass plant on Ellesmere Port’s outskirts have been raised in the House of Commons.
They came in a series of questions from Barnsley Central MP Eric Ilsley (Lab) to Communities and Local Government Secretary Hazel Blears.
Quinn competitors Rockware, now Ardagh Glass, are based in South Yorkshire, as is the MP’s constituency, although it does not include the Rockware plant.
A retrospective application for planning permission by Quinn, which operates the glass bottle manufacturing and filling plant at Ince, was rejected by the previous secretary of state Ruth Kelly following a public inquiry.
Her decision suggested that a fresh planning application could be a way forward.
A bid by Quinn to challenge her finding through the courts has recently been withdrawn.
Both Chester City Council and Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough Council have rejected requests by Ardagh Glass to take enforcement action on the basis a fresh application, which is due to be considered next month (December), was expected and in the recent past there have been no complaints about the plant.
Mr Illsey asked Mrs Blears what procedures are in place to ensure that local planning authorities take appropriate action to enforce planning control decisions and what steps her ministry has taken “in relation to those local authorities which fail to take enforcement action against developers who flout planning controls”.
In further questions he asked what action Mrs Blears planned to take “to enforce planning regulations applicable to the Quinn Glass plant” and to require Chester City Council to enforce planning regulations relating to the factory.
The MP also sought information on the approach which would be taken by the ministry to ensure that large-scale developments “obtain appropriate planning consent prior to construction” and that enforcement action is taken “to prevent any potential unfair competitive advantage being gained as a result of progressing development without proper permission”.
He asked the Secretary of State what representations she had received “on the legality of the continued operation of the Quinn Glass plant” and the status of planning permission in relation to the plant, and what steps she intended to take to enforce Mrs Kelly’s decision “that Quinn Glass should not gain any advantage from the fact that their plant had already been built and commenced operation”.
For Mrs Blears, parliamentary under secretary of state Iain Wright (Lab, Sunderland) replied:”Local planning authorities have a wide range of discretionary enforcement powers to enable them to deal with unauthorised development that is harming amenity in the neighbourhood.
“If they consider that unauthorised development is unacceptable on planning grounds, they have the power to take enforcement action.
“It is for the local planning authority to decide in each case which is the most appropriate course of action, taking account of local circumstance.”
Mr Wright pointed out that a second retrospective planning application for the development was submitted to Chester City and Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough councils at the end of January this year and had not yet been decided.
He said that representations had been received concerning the legality of operations at the plant and that representations and requests to call-in the previous planning application had also referred to the operation of the plant “without the benefit of planning permission”.
Agents on behalf of Ardagh Glass had requested the fresh application should be called in, said Mr Wright.
Mrs Blears has issued a direction to ensure she had a formal opportunity to consider the possibility of determining the matter herself “should the two local planning authorities be minded to grant planning permission”.
“I can make no comments on the merits of this case as it may yet come before the secretary of state for her determination,” concluded Mr Wright.
Ardagh have called for enforcement action to be taken now to ensure there is no doubt the councils have acted well before the four year period for enforcement runs out next March.