PLANNING inspectors are set to run the rule over plans to expand a controversial chipboard factory near Wrexham.

Kronospan wants to build two large gas engines at its plant in Chirk as part of a modernisation programme worth a total of £200 million.

The facility on Holyhead Road has been the subject of almost 500 complaints from residents in the last eight years, mostly concerning dust emissions.

The proposal is being treated as a development of national significance, and unlike other applications will be dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate for Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government.

In a briefing note the company said: “Over the past five years Kronospan has started a modernisation and improvement programme which has involved the development of a series of facilities intended to deliver efficiency and environmental improvements to the site and neighbouring residential areas.

“The manufacturing processes which take place at Kronospan require large quantities of heat and electricity.

“The high voltage electricity network in this part of Wales is sub-standard for the level of demand it is required to meet.

“As such Kronospan are only allowed to draw approximately 55 per cent of their total demand from the grid.

“The additional proposed gas engines are required to further increase Kronospan’s self-sufficiency in terms of electricity supply.”

The engines would be able to generate a maximum of almost 10 megawatts to help power the facility, taking its total electricity generating capacity to just over 49 megawatts They would be located in a new two storey building, which would also house two steam boilers and a control room.

The engines would also be used to provide heat and steam for use in the manufacturing processes at the site.

The company has submitted a screening request to the Planning Inspectorate to determine whether an environmental impact assessment is required as part of the application.

In a letter, Kronospan’s technical director Andrew Russell said: “Based upon our assessment, it is our opinion that significant environmental effects are unlikely to be experienced as a result of the proposed development.

“We trust that the contents of this letter along with the attached plan are sufficient to aid you in adopting a screening direction.”

The application will be decided on by inspectors at a later date. The company has also recently applied to vary its environmental permit, meaning it would be regulated by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) instead of Wrexham Council in future.

NRW said it wants to make sure the factory is regulated in a way that will deliver environmental improvements and has launched a consultation with villagers.

You can e-mail for a copy of the application. The closing date for the consultation on the permit variation is October 19.