GLASS production at one of Pilkington’s major plants will be put on hold for at least three months as the company’s owners respond to falling demand in the industry.

In a statement Nippon Sheet Glass (NSG) Pilks’ parent company, said the float glass line at Cowley Hill will be put on “hot hold” from January 3.

The technical term effectively means the furnace at the plant is kept warm but blocked to stop production of glass.

With one of the two UK 5 lines at Greengate currently mothballed, it means just the one float glass line will be operating at the two St Helens plants in the early part of next year.

This will allow the company, which in October celebrated the 60th anniversary since Alastair Pilkington started developing the float glass process, to reduce stocks levels as they attempt to be in a stronger position approaching the next financial year.

The exact impact on the workforce is unclear, with NSG stating that local management is in “talks with employee representatives”.

Charlie Leonard, of the GMB Union, said: “It is worrying news and the fear is there will be some reduction in staff. However, we need to meet with the company to assess the full ramifications of the announcement.”

NSG, which is undergoing a global restructuring programme, said the decision was a “consequence of the overcapacity that still exists in the European glass industry”.

It stated: “This action will allow the company to reduce stock levels and therefore working capital.

“It will not impact significantly on the UK market as the company can continue to supply from stocks and from float line UK5 at Greengate.”

Last month the Star reported how 33 jobs were under threat at Pilkington’s Watson Street site because a challenging global market for solar panels.