PM urged to back bid for factory at heart of Britain’s food supply

A group trying to take over one of Britain’s last fertiliser plants will this week appeal to Boris Johnson for support after ministers refused to back the rescue bid.

A group of UK investors, backed by former Army chief Lord Dannatt, has been holding talks with US giant CF Industries about buying the Ince plant in Cheshire for the last six months. It has been seeking assurances from the Government to help smooth a path to the deal but has so far been unsuccessful.

The Ince plant is one of only two fertiliser factories in Britain and is a key supplier of carbon dioxide, a byproduct of fertiliser production, to industry. CO2 is used in everything from surgical operations and meat processing.

CF Industries last month announced plans to shut down the Ince plant in August, leaving the consortium, called UK Nitrogen, just weeks to secure a deal. The group plans to approach the Prime Minister through an intermediary this week to directly lobby for support.

A spokesman for UK Nitrogen said: “We are asking about some of the environmental and gas issues with the plant. You would need quick action on those given the timescales.

“We are not asking for any taxpayer money at all, we just need help facilitating some environmental hurdles. Also, this would be a non-runner without its people.

“These facilities are extremely important and we feel they should be under UK management and UK ownership.”

A permanent shutdown of Once could weaken Britain’s food supply chain and pose a risk to key supplies of CO2.

The National Farmers Union, the Agricultural Industries Confederation and the British Meat Processors Association have all warned that the Ince plant’s closure could leave the farming industry overly reliant on one fertiliser factory in Billingham, Teeside, for domestic supplies.

It is understood the UK Nitrogen consortium first launched early stage discussions about a takeover in January but have so far been rebuffed by the company.

The consortium has asked the Government to provide assurances about the supply of gas to the facility as well as help with the carbon taxes, which could help unlock negotiations.

The Government provided a multi-million pound subsidy to CF Industries to keep the Billingham factory open in September over fears about a lack of supply of carbon dioxide.

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