Quinn Group plans to challenge public inquiry into plant

Ireland“s Quinn Group is planning a legal challenge to UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott over his decision to hold a public inquiry into the building of a GBP 250 million (EUR 360 million) glass…

Ireland“s Quinn Group is planning a legal challenge to UK Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott over his decision to hold a public inquiry into the building of a GBP 250 million (EUR 360 million) glass plant near Chester, north-west England. The public inquiry could delay the opening of the plant, which was scheduled for the 1H of 2005, by up to two years. A spokesman for Quinn Group said the company had written to ask Mr Prescott why he had invoked his powers to hold an inquiry. “We want to give him time to respond but we are talking a matter of weeks [ before commencing legal action],” said the spokesman. The most likely course would be a judicial review of the decision. Mr Prescott has cited “important wider implications” for the inquiry into the plant. Quinn group obtained permission for the plant in October 2003 but subsequently sought to raise its capacity by 25%, a move requiring a second application. However, the company proceeded with construction based on the original permission. Mr Prescott“s decision to hold the inquiry follows sustained lobbying by Irish-owned Ardagh Glass, which owns British container glass producer Rockware. The Quinn plant, which could supply up to 20% of the UK market, could have very serious consequences for Rockware, which has a number of older plants located mostly in the Yorkshire region, in northern England. The company has lobbied a number of MPs in the north of England over the impact of the Quinn plant, warning that it could cost 1,000 jobs in Yorkshire. Quinn said 21 March 2005 that its project continued to enjoy the support of the local authorities in the north-west of England and the North West Development Agency. It added that the Department of Trade and Industry, which is assisting the project with a grant, had written to the company renewing its support for the project despite the public inquiry. According to the spokesman, Rockware is the only party with a problem over the plant. Ardagh Glass is currently the subject of a leveraged takeover by Caona, a vehicle controlled by its largest shareholders, Yeoman and businessman Paul Coulson. Caona has raised financing of more than EUR 125 million for the deal and, in a bond document, it highlights the launching of the Quinn group plant as a serious threat to Ardagh Glass.