First Milk is planning to invest £10m in the development of a new cheese cutting and packaging facility at its site in Maelor in Wales, The Grocer can reveal.

The dairy co-op has quietly submitted a planning application for the plant, which will also feature a new maturation store - big enough to handle 25,000 tonnes of cheese - to be built in partnership with storage and distribution company GroContinental.

In a statement to Wrexham council, First Milk said the UK cheese market was becoming increasingly competitive, and it needed to be able to compete with other companies. “The solution is to build a modern, efficient, purpose-built facility, in line with leading retailer codes of practice and regulatory standards,” it said.

First Milk CEO Kate Allum told The Grocer the investment was necessary because Maelor had not been designed to be a pre-pack facility - and was therefore not as efficient as required - and the site had been underinvested for some time.

“The investment will make Maelor into the plant it needs to be,” she said. “It’ll make our pre-pack more efficient and our maturation store more effective.”

First Milk’s main Cheddar brand, The Lake District Cheese Co, is packed in Maelor, and Allum said the facility would ensure the co-op could continue to pack its own brand as it grew.

Allum added total investment at Maelor would be about £10m, but stressed this was subject to change through the planning process.

First Milk said it expected a decision on its application from Wrexham Council in early March. If the plant got the green light, development would start straight away, with a view to the new site being up and running at the beginning of 2013, it added.