500 jobs at risk in glass fight

A legal challenge that could put 500 new glass factory jobs in Ellesmere Port in jeopardy began in the High Court.

Irish-based Quinn Glass this year completed the construction of Europe's largest glass making factory at the former Ince Power Station.However, in a case expected to last for three days, one of Quinn's fiercest rivals, Yorkshire-based Rockware Glass, is claiming the decision by Chester City Council to grant Quinn a Pollution Prevention and Control (PPC) Permit to operate the plant was "unlawful".Rockware is also claiming that the council should have awaited the outcome of a planning inquiry into the factory ordered by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott and due to begin on November 22.Quinn fired up the first of its giant 600 tonne furnaces and began producing glass in April, although it is not yet fully operational.Mr Richard Gordon QC, for Rockware, told Judge Andrew Gilbart there is currently no valid planning permission for the Chester plant which will have capacity to make 1.2bn glass containers-a-year.Both Chester City Council and neighbouring authority, Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough Council, are in favour of the plant.

Mr Gordon told the judge Chester City Council had decided to grant Quinn Glass the required PPC Permit on the very same day that the planning application was called in by Mr Prescott.

The QC argued Chester had failed to follow government guidelines which require that PPC permits should only be issued if the "Best Available Techniques" ((BAT) are to be used to minimise emissions of potential pollutants - particularly oxides of nitrogen (NOx) into the environment.

The plant is fitted with Cross-Fired Regenerative Furnaces, and Rockware says the council "erred in law" when it accepted they were BAT-compliant. The company says new Oxyfuel Furnaces, which produce far lower NOx emissions, should have been considered as an alternative.

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