Ciner Glass plans for glass bottle manufacturing facility in Blaenau Gwent

CiNER Glass have plans to build and operate a glass bottle manufacturing facility within the Rassau Industrial Estate to the north of Ebbw Vale, Blaenau Gwent, South Wales.

This is a significant development for the South Wales community and CiNER. Once operational, the plant would provide a range of long-term benefits to the local community, including:

  • A £390m investment in a state-of-the-art glass container manufacturing facility which utilises recycled glass;
  • Over 600 jobs when the plant is operational, plus an additional 400 jobs during the construction phase;
  • Provide new job opportunities for young people over several decades; and
  • Create a centre of engineering excellence in glass technology for Wales, which can compete with the best in the world.

Building the plant – preparing our planning application

Following the pre-application consultation process (PAC) in the summer of 2021, CiNER Glass submitted an application for full planning permission to Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council (BGCBC) on 22 September 2021.

Following this, the Council carried out the statutory consultation process on the application. This included statutory consultees such as Welsh Water, Natural Resources Wales (NRW), Brecon Beacons National Park Authority (BBNPA), The Coal Authority etc as well as seeking the thoughts of the general public. We have since responded to the feedback to provide answers on the key matters raised and submitted revised and supplementary information to inform a supplementary consultation process on the planning application in January 2022.  

In accordance with The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Wales) Regulations 2017 (the EIA Regs), we prepared an Environmental Statement (ES), which can be found here. The ES was prepared by Arup – a specialist firm commissioned by CiNER Glass – and was submitted to BGCBC in support of the planning application.

Given the scale of the project, there is a high level of interest from the local community regarding the plant and our plans. We have sought to provide answers to the key matters raised during the statutory consultation processes below.

Our investment in your community

What economic benefits will CiNER Glass bring to Ebbw Vale?

At CiNER Glass, we want to make a long-term commitment to the future prosperity of Ebbw Vale and be part of the local community for generations to come.

The proposed facility is an opportunity to create and secure high-quality well-paid jobs which can benefit the whole community. We plan to hire local people and foster skills and expertise in Blaenau Gwent, becoming a long-term employer and provider in the area. The proposals would create approximately 598 onsite jobs with an additional 73 offsite/subcontracted job opportunities. Cumulatively, the proposed development would employ approximately 671 people. The plant is planned to be operational for decades but has the potential to continue beyond that. 

It is also important to us that the materials and services required for the facility come from local companies, making it an asset for the whole community and local economy. We have identified the main supply chain opportunities and are committed to placing contracts with local companies wherever it is possible.

Our plans to be a good neighbour

How big will the proposed facility be?

The application site covers a total area of 21.5Ha (the equivalent to 21 rugby pitches) within the Rassau Industrial Estate, on its eastern edge. The size of the facility is dictated by the glass bottle manufacturing processes to ensure it can operate effectively.

The plant would consist of two glass manufacturing furnaces and associated chimney stacks, with associated buildings (including filtration buildings), recycled glass storage, raw material silos, water stores, external hardstanding, attenuation ponds for the management of surface water, landscape planting, secure boundary fencing and vehicle and cycle parking, including electric vehicle (EV) charging points. 

Will the facility have a visual impact on the local landscape?

The ES is supported by a Visual chapter (Chapter 13) which outlines the visual impacts during both the construction and operational phases of development. The approach to undertake a Visual Impact Assessment (VIA) only was agreed through consultation with BGCBC and confirmed during scoping by BGCBC, NRW and BBNPA. The VIA has considered impacts on community, recreation, tourism, and transport.

As requested by NRW, we have submitted a Materiality and Lighting Considerations Report and an Environmental Colour Assessment (ECA) which justifies the external materials and lighting for the proposed development. Due to the scale of the proposed development, we would make effective use of patinated (matte finish) reflective cladding to the external façade to the building to ensure that dynamic landscapes and changing skies are reflected, minimising visual intrusion on the local landscape. 

What measures will be taken to minimise light pollution from the facility?

As set out in the Materiality and Lighting Considerations Report, opportunities have been taken to restrict the levels of light spill from the facility towards the Brecon Beacons Dark Skies Reserve Core Zone. Measures have included the installation of north east orientated roof lights to direct light from the facility away from the ‘Core Zone’ and the suspension of internal lighting 3m below the ceiling level to prevent light spill.

As the proposed development would provide an internal road network and would be operational 24/7, a degree of external lighting will be required. An external lighting strategy will be developed by CiNER and approved by BGCBC for external areas. Embedded measures such as directional lighting, restrictions of luminance levels and appropriate lighting specifications will be developed to minimise light pollution on the Brecon Beacons Dark Skies Reserve. 

The chimneys at the facility would be 75metres in height (approx) which could require aircraft warning lights to be installed, similar to other tall structures within the industrial estate. There are no plans to install illuminated signs to the proposed chimneys.

Will the construction phase and operation of the facility create significant noise for nearby properties and communities?

The construction phase would not give rise to significant impacts on the acoustic environment. The ES highlights that demolition activities such as the removal of the existing hardstanding track would equate to 60dB and would be confined to daytime hours with a duration of less than one month. Due to the degree of separation between the site and residential receptors, it is considered that there would be no significant construction noise endured by local communities.

It is acknowledged that the proposed development will result in construction traffic which would not exceed 280 trips per day. The greatest level of noise increase would be anticipated along Alun Davies Way (2.2-2.9dB increase) which is not considered to be significant. Due to the degree of separation between the site, transport routes from the A465 (Heads of the Valleys) and ease of access to the established regional transport network, there would be no significant noise impacts on residential properties and local communities.

Will residents see a reduction in air quality as a result of the construction and operation of the plant?

Embedded mitigation measures such as filtration systems and suitable dispersion from the 75m chimney stacks would be achieved to minimise air quality impacts. It is confirmed that there would be no smoke emitted from the chimney stacks.

The ES contains the findings of the air quality assessment undertaken which considered the various aspects of the construction and operational phases of development. The ES concluded that long term impacts would be negligible for all pollutants, with the exception of Chromium due to high existing background concentrations. Relative emissions of Chromium would result in an actual change of <1% at all human receptors and is concluded to be not significant.

The facility will be subject to an Environmental Permit, issued by the local authority. Throughout all operations, we will be continually monitoring emissions and regularly report to the local authority.

Has the Environmental Statement considered the levels of CO2 emissions which could be emitted from the facility?

The ES has undertaken an assessment on the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions anticipated for the construction and operational phases of development. The ES concludes that the development would result in 7,541.3ktCO2e of GHG emissions across the 60-year lifespan, with year one (operational emissions) being estimated to be 93.4 ktCO2e. The ES outlines that the proposed development would contribute an estimated 0.024% of the 4th UK carbon budget, 0.039% of the 5th budget and 0.065% of the 6th budget.

By using recycled glass (cullet), in our proposed plant, we will be reducing emissions as using cullet requires fewer natural resources from raw materials and less energy to melt it down.

We hold the same ambitions as the local Council and the Welsh Government to become carbon neutral in our operations. We are already in discussion with potential supply chains across South Wales and exploring investing in 100% electrical furnaces to achieve our net zero goals.

What measures will be taken to help minimise the impact on local wildlife?

As is the case with major economic developments of this scale, we recognise that some habitats will be lost, but are making every effort to improve the quality of woodland and marshland on the site. We will provide up to 566 new trees to the site to help replace those lost in construction and enhance the local woodland area for generations to come.

When work does progress (subject to the grant of planning permission), CiNER would undertake sensitive vegetation clearance under ecological supervision to reduce the potential impact on local habitats. A relocation programme for reptiles and amphibians will also take place, as requested by NRW along with creating new habitats on the site itself.

Is there enough existing drainage to accommodate the facility?

The ES concluded that the existing drainage infrastructure is capable of accommodating the predicted drainage flowing from the facility.

Will Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV) movements from the facility create potential hazards and traffic issues in the Rassau Industrial Estate?

HGV movements into the facility will be spread throughout the day to reduce congestion within the Rassau Industrial Estate. A Site Traffic Management Plan (STMP) has been submitted to BGCBC Highways Department outlining the measures to be adopted to prevent stationary vehicles within the industrial estate road network and manage vehicle movements on site. The facility includes a ‘holding area’ for HGVs to reduce the need for HGVs to park outside of the site.

To help improve the flow of vehicles in and out of the facility, we have proposed (in partnership with the local authority) to remove the roundabout near the site and replace it with a priority T-junction entrance into the site to ensure highway safety (in accordance with established standards laid out by the local authority).