The UK drinks industry has a demand of seven billion glass containers a year. These bottles are produced by companies such as Quinn Glass, which operates two of the largest furnaces and one of the largest automated warehouses in Europe located at Elton in Cheshire, England.
Their impressive £325 million, 205-acre warehouse is a unique plant in worldwide terms as bottles are manufactured, filled, labelled, packed, stored and distributed from a single site, with a capacity in excess of 1.2 billion glass containers a year.
This state-of-the-art facility has a short but eventful history. Quinn Glass was granted planning permission for the site in 2003 from local authorities, but subsequently amended its plans to increase the size of the facility by 27 per cent. Although its revised plans were initially approved and work began on the plant, this approval was later quashed following judicial review proceedings by a competitor, Quinn Glass continued with construction work for the larger plant as advised, however further objections from the same competitor resulted in a Public Inquiry. The application was rejected by the Secretary of State in early 2007, but by this time construction of the plant was complete and the facility operational. The Secretary of State suggested that a fresh planning application may be an appropriate way forward. Royal HaskoningDHV’s Highway and Transport Planning experts, was subsequently commissioned in March 2007 by Quinn Glass. They made up part of a highly specialised multidisciplinary team to gain planning approval for the facility by submitting a new planning application in January 2008.
Craig Francis of Royal HaskoningDHV, said: “Royal HaskoningDHV was brought in to use its expertise of public inquiry processes and long-standing experience of dealing with complex transport issues. Our role included assessing transport links to the facility and completing the Traffic and Access chapter of the Environmental Statement, as well as establishing and implementing an effective staff travel plan.”
The team worked on a number of areas that needed to be addressed before the planning application could be submitted in January 2008.
The legal complications surrounding the site’s existence meant that communication between all parties involved regarding transport issues was vital. The site is near residential areas and the team liaised with planning officers and members of the public to assess potential road traffic noise impacts and ensure that practical solutions were reached that would benefit all parties.
The transport assessment, and Traffic and Access chapter of the Environmental Statement are highly specialised areas and Royal HaskoningDHV is recognised for its expertise. To address highway safety concerns highlighted by the Secretary of State, it recommended widening the access road to minimise a bend and constructing a new lane for vehicles to turn into the site, to replace the existing priority junction. The team also designed strengthening works to the access road to address deficiencies in the existing road structure and to accommodate the increase in heavy traffic from HGVs travelling to the site.
Finding long-term transport solutions to make the Quinn Glass facility as sustainable as possible was a key feature of Royal HaskoningDHV’s proposals. The site is next to a railway line and the assessment included developing the concept of transporting raw materials to the site by rail to reduce road traffic. Rail freight targets were built into the travel plan, with eight per cent of total freight being moved by rail after five years and ten per cent after ten years.
The new staff travel plan was a feature of Royal HaskoningDHV’s work for the planning application project and was awarded the title of ‘North West Sustainability Project of the Year 2008’, by the North Western Branch of the Institution of Highways and Transportation. The plan fully integrates sustainable transport principles into an industrial facility. Incentive schemes were introduced for the 700 members of staff working onsite, including tax efficient schemes to purchase bikes and financial incentives to car share or use alternative means of transport. Automated, dedicated pedestrian and cycle access routes into the facility were introduced, as well as swipe card systems to record numbers of drivers, car sharers, cyclists and pedestrians, which link electronically to the staff payroll system.
Part of the success of the staff travel plan involved setting onerous targets and assisting in their implementation. The target to be achieved by 2015 is for no more than 40 per cent of staff to travel on their own to the site in a car, an impressive target for a fairly remote industrial site where many staff members work shift patterns. Royal HaskoningDHV is continuing to work with Quinn Glass to ensure that the site is achieving its best potential.
The transport aspects of the new planning application were an essential part towards securing its approval. The new application was submitted in January 2008 and received full planning approval from government authorities in November 2009 thus securing its future and ensuring it can continue to operate successfully.