NOISES emanating from the Lostock Works, which residents say have woken them in the night, have been put down to an extended annual planned shutdown.

Tata Chemicals Europe shut down the works each spring for routine maintenance and plant improvement works, with this year's closure going on for longer than planned last week.

As a result, the company says steam usually used to power the plant was instead vented out, causing the noise and unusual steam clouds.

Tatton MP Esther McVey and new Cheshire West and Chester Ward member for Rudheath, Cllr Helen Treeby, attended the site last week with concerned residents to meet a TCE director.

Phil Davies of TCE said: “Every year, we complete a planned shutdown for safety critical routine maintenance and plant improvement works. This usually lasts around 24 hours.

"During these periods, we still need to supply steam to the site to keep the cross country steam pipes warm and therefore steam that would normally be used in the manufacturing process has to be released safely via a vent.

"This is the reason for the recent additional steam over the Works, which can create an additional noise for the duration of the shutdown.

"The annual shutdowns have been done is this manner since the steam supplied from old coal fired power station was replaced by steam from the highly efficient, low-carbon CHP plant at the Winnington Works in 2000, and usually go largely unnoticed.

"Last week's shutdown was a little longer than normal, as we wanted to carry out a number of engineering improvements in addition to our usual maintenance. This is why it was more noticeable than is usually the case.

"We recently met with MP Esther McVey, Cllr Helen Treeby and several local residents to explore their concerns and we are always happy to respond to any issues raised by people in our local community.

"We were able to reassure those we met that the steam venting was planned and controlled, and that no harmful substances were being released as a consequence of this.

"Our Lostock Works is regulated by the Environment Agency and operates within our environmental consents including during periods of planned shutdown.”

However, since the meeting, Ms McVey has said she will contact CWAC to check the air quality reports near the site.

She said: “This is a residential area and people have a right to live in peace and are concerned about their health and therefore I need to find out if there has been any change in air quality due to whatever is causing the change.

“The problem seems to have become unbearable in recent weeks which makes me think something has happened or is happening at the site.

"If there is work being carried out residents should be given a time frame and kept informed. Even if this is the case, no work should be taking place during unsociable hours or waking up residents.”

Cllr Treeby, who lives nearby, said noise and emissions had 'substantially increased' recently.

A follow-up meeting is expected in the near future.