Planning consent too late to save Sonae

The Knowsley-based chipboard maker said gaining retrospective planning permission for its plant that opened in December 2011 will not affect its decision to close.

Sonae Industria UK was this week granted planning permission by Knowsley Council for its smaller, replacement flaker hall building. The majority of the planning committee voted in line with the officer's recommendation for approval. The original planning application was submitted in December 2011, however the process has taken eight months to reach a decision.

The manufacturing company announced in July it was entering into consultation with staff over closure, blaming 'long delays to the reconstruction and subsequent future redevelopment of the factory due to political and planning difficulties, which have resulted in reduced and unsustainable capacity levels.'

Nigel Graham, managing director of Sonae Industria (UK), said: "It is disappointing that a number of councillors saw fit to reject our proposals, despite a clear recommendation to grant planning permission from council officers. It is also sad and frustrating that the local MP [George Howarth, Labour] has been campaigning for our closure and publicly calling for objections against this application. This has wasted resource on both sides and has been a contributing factor to our group losing its confidence in continuing to operate in Knowsley. The decision will do little to change the current situation we face."

Howarth responded: "Mr Graham's 'disappointment' would be more convincing if it was not for the fact that the subject of the retrospective planning application – The Flaker Hall – has been in operation since December 2011.

"He criticises local Councillors and myself for the stance we have taken in speaking up for the concerns of the local community: perhaps his cause would have been better served had he had addressed Sonae's real problems – environmental, health and safety and commercial – instead of trying to create a smokescreen.

"It is significant that, despite the planning decision going in Sonae's favour, Mr Graham states that it '… will do little to change the current situation we face.'"

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Money follows the path of least resistance. Stand in its way and it just flows somewhere else. Saying that, Sonae have a reputation for being terrible for the local community and there are significant legal proceedings ongoing related to public health issues. Maybe this isn’t the disaster it could be perceived to be.

By m

Presumably Sonae will be paying back the NWDA cash for setting up 14 yrs ago when NWDA thought they would be good for the local community? Oh – thought not.

By Leftarmround

Sonae’s MD at Knowsley has a lot to answer for. During his tenure at the factory, there have been 3 deaths, numerous fires and environmental incidents. His poor leadership and indifference to these events has led to the inevitable fate of this factory. I know, I worked there!

By Joe King