PILKINGTON is planning to close a Cowley Hill production line because the float glass section of the business is losing tens of millions of pounds, the company’s UK chief said today.

Matt Buckley also called on the Government to introduce measures for stimulating the economy to encourage homeowners, public sector organisations and businesses to replace old windows with energy efficient glass.

He said the flagship Green Deal policy was failing.

Mr Buckley, the managing director of Pilkington UK and Ireland, told the Star: “The float glass side of the businesses is losing tens of millions of pounds.

“Frankly, there is not enough demand for manufacturing in the UK to justify the amount of float glass.

“Even since 2008 demand is down 30 per cent. I know it is not the nicest thing to say but in order to preserve the rest of the business for the 90 per cent of the remaining workforce in St Helens we have to get rid of the unprofitable part.”

The planned mothballing of Cowley Hill’s line leaves just the one float glass line in St Helens, at Greengate, operational.

The 140 job losses will come from across the two sites, rather just the Cowley Hill workforce.

A window for employees across the North West to apply for voluntary redundancies will open and, where possible, some employees on the float glass lines will be redeployed.

However, Mr Buckley admitted “the company would be very surprised if enough volunteers came forward” and fears they will have to make compulsory redundancies.

Across St Helens and the technical centre at Lathom, Pilks employs about 1,350 workers. Its Watson Street, Alexandra Business Park and Lea Green sites are unaffected.

The £36m coating line at Cowley Hill will also remain operational.

Some sections of the St Helens public have criticised Nippon Sheet Glass, the Japanese company which bought Pilks in 2006, for eroding the town’s proud glassmaking industry.

The announcement about Cowley Hill came as NSG revealed a revised forecast for 2014 in Tokyo.

But Mr Buckley insisted this is a “UK market story” rather than an “NSG group story”, stating that the £36million investment at Cowley Hill for the glass coating factory – which was assisted by £5m of Government funding – was an illustration of the commitment to keep Pilks at the cutting edge.

Asked whether Pilkington had witnessed any signs of recovery in the economy, he said construction of 10,000 new homes in the UK would barely cover a month’s production on the large float lines.

“We need glass going into new office blocks, people replacing their windows – but there is just not enough of that taking place.

“Hopefully the government can do something to help stimulate demand.

“They announced the Green Deal - but I don’t think that they can say that has been success. We need to stimulate people to replace windows and local authorities to change windows in their housing stock.”