AN ASSEMBLY Member has denied knowing about a Wrexham factory’s successful expansion bid ahead of a meeting to discuss complaints about emissions.

Clwyd South AM Ken Skates held talks with a representative from Kronospan in Chirk along with community leaders towards the end of September amid concerns from residents about the facility’s impact on the environment.

The dialogue took place shortly before it was announced the company had won an appeal to extend its wood panel manufacturing plant on Holyhead Road in the town.

The proposals were originally put on hold by councillors amid fears about road safety, but a planning inspector appointed by the Welsh Government said the development should go ahead after publishing his findings earlier this month.

It led to accusations that Mr Skates would have known of the outcome before the meeting, including from one of the attendees.

However, he has now published a statement on Facebook to dismiss claims by Chirk south councillor Terry Evans, which he said were inaccurate.

Mr Skates said: “After being made aware of untrue and misleading statements on social media, it is important to point out that the recent decision to overrule Wrexham Council was made by the independent planning inspector, who is, as the title clearly states, independent. Local councillors will know this.

“Therefore, it is impossible that they or I could have known the outcome before the recent meeting with the local county councillor and the chair of Chirk Environmental Liaison Group. Attendees were agreed by the local county councillor.

“I’ll continue to work with local representatives re: emissions issues and take up residents’ concerns with the company and the council – who are responsible for monitoring emissions from the factory to air, land and water, as well as noise.

“It is vital that county councillors recognise their responsibilities and work constructively with everyone.”

Hundreds of complaints have been made about environmental issues at Kronospan in recent years, including concerns over dust, odour and light pollution.

Cllr Evans, who sits on Wrexham Council’s ruling executive board, was among those who objected to the company’s latest plans to create a new orientated strand board production facility.

Despite officials claiming it would deliver 100 jobs, he took to Facebook last week to voice his frustration at the inspector’s decision to permit the extension and took aim at the area’s AM.

Posting on the Chirk Forum community group, Cllr Evans said: “Ken Skates must have known this when we met in the parish hall and immediately after (we) toured the factory. This smells bad.

“I have tried to get two community reps on the Kronospan environmental liaison committee and that’s not allowed.”

The proposals were approved after inspector Aidan McCooey said any traffic problems could be addressed by the creation of a new weighbridge.

While Cllr Evans said he accepted the explanation given by Mr Skates, he added he did not agree with the outcome of the appeal.

He said: “It’s difficult to understand that he didn’t know but fair enough if that’s the case then we accept it.

“But for the inspector to make a decision like that without anybody from the community having any involvement is wrong because we have got major issues at Kronospan.

“One is transport and we were trying to get a new road off the roundabout because a thousand vehicles a day going to and from the factory past the school site is unacceptable.”

Changes are expected to be made to the way emissions from the factory are monitored from next year.

It comes as Natural Resources Wales is set to take over sole responsibility for overseeing the firm’s environmental permit.