Major expansion plans which would see drilling and extraction of 10 million tonnes of brine at a site in Northwich look set to be rubber-stamped.

Cheshire West’s planning committee is recommended to approve an application by Inovyn Enterprises for four new wells at its Holford brine fields site in Lostock Gralam.

The 4,447-acre site has been operating since the 1930s and produces three million tonnes of salt a year.  It currently supplies an Inovyn site in Runcorn, where the brine is used as one of the key raw materials for the production of chlorine, caustic soda, chlorinated derivatives and food grade salt.

Brine is also supplied to the Tata Ash Plant in Northwich.

The salt beds are 120m below the surface, are around 240m thick and represent what planners called 'a significant mineral reserve' of salt.

If granted, planning permission would last until 2042 and see the existing operation being expanded with four new wells along with road and pipe infrastructure. The plans will involve the creation of a 35m-wide construction corridor where soil would be stripped and temporarily stored.

Extraction of the brine would be undertake via a process known as solution mining, which involves the drilling of a borehole into an underlying saltbed.

Water is then pumped into the well dissolving the salt, forming brine, which can then be pumped out - thereby creating a cavity. When depleted - usually after 25 years - the cavity is then left filled with brine and capped with the well head remaining at the surface.

A report to the committee said: “It should be noted that the process of ‘controlled solution mining’ is different from ‘wild' brine pumping from flooded salt mines which has resulted in significant subsidence in the Northwich area.”

It concluded: “The continued extraction of brine is needed for both local and national industry and would bringing substantial economic and environmental benefits. Significant positive weight is given to these benefits."

The meeting takes place next Tuesday, February 6.