CONTROVERSIAL plans to expand operations at a Northwich incinerator have moved a step closer.

An application has been submitted to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to increase capacity at the energy-from-waste plant in Lostock – even though it is still under construction.

Views are now being sought following the launch of a new public consultation.

If the plans are given the green light, once operational it would see the amount of waste the plant is allowed to burn rise from 600,000 to 728,000 tonnes a year.

It would also mean a huge increase in the number of daily HGV movements at the plant from 262 to 434, a development which one local councillor has previously stated would make life a ‘living hell’ for nearby residents.

Bosses have also applied for extended opening hours, from 7am-7pm as was originally planned, to 7am-11pm, which they said is to ‘reduce any potential impact on peak traffic hours’.

The £480m plant at Lostock Works was given planning permission by the government in 2012 and is still being built.

In a letter to councillors, a spokesman for the plant's operators, said: “The proposal will enable us to make better use of the facility and allow more sustainable energy to be generated to support the local electricity network.

"Our plans will not alter the currently approved buildings or structures, nor will it increase environmental emissions of the facility beyond the consented limits.”

The plans have long been shrouded in controversy, with Northwich MP Mike Amesbury and councillor Sam Naylor among those calling for the expansion to be halted.

And last month, a meeting of Cheshire West and Chester's Full Council voted to write to the Secretary of State Michael Gove, urging him to reconsider the terms of the licence for the plant, as well as any future expansion proposals.

Views are now being sought as part of a public consultation which runs until December 2.

Comments can be sent to the BEIS Energy Infrastructure Planning team by emailing and referencing ‘Lostock Sustainable Energy Plant – Section 36 Consent Variation Application’.

The planning application documents can be viewed here.  

Copies of the documents are also available for inspection at Northwich Library.