U-turn by council will see more fuel stored at depot
By The Bristol Post | Friday, December 07, 2012, 05:00
COUNCILLORS have made a U-turn and approved plans to bring back into use defunct fuel tanks at an oil storage depot in Portishead.
North Somerset Council's north area planning committee had initially refused an application by the Oil and Pipelines Agency for a hazardous substance consent to open an additional three tanks at its fuel storage depot at Redcliffe Bay.
But councillors on the authority's planning and regulatory committee have now granted approval, despite concerns from local residents.
Councillors said if the application was refused permission, the matter could be referred on appeal to the planning inspectorate, which was likely to approve it, risking the authority being landed with legal costs.
Currently there are 13 tanks on site but only five are used to store aviation fuel, which is pumped to airports around the country.
There are also two 'slop' tanks on the site, which are used to store waste fuel products.
The additional tanks will see the amount of kerosene stored at the tanks rise from 21,000 tonnes to 55,000 tonnes.
The application prompted concerns from local residents and councillors, who said it lacked vital information and there had been little or no consultation. They also feared that any increase in the amount of fuel stored at the site also posed a greater risk of an incident.
Portishead Town Council also wrote to North Somerset asking for consent to be refused on safety grounds.
The Health and Safety Executive said it had carried out a detailed assessment of the site and the risks from increasing the number of tanks at the site were so small that there was no significant reason for refusing the application on safety grounds.
Portishead councillor David Pasley told his colleagues: "I am still very unhappy about many safety aspects of this site and feel that permission should not be granted when so many questions remain unanswered.
"The tanks are more than 50 years old and if there was a fault or breakdown in one of them it could be catastrophic for the area.
"I do not want to scaremonger, but we are being asked to make a decision on an application without all the information which could potentially pose real safety risks to the local community."
OPA officials said the additional tanks are needed back in operation due to an increase in demand for fuel from airports. They said that the additional tanks did not increase the risk to the environment and local residents.
Committee chairman Ian Porter said: "The HSE has deemed the area as safe. It would be difficult for the council to defend a decision to refuse the application at any appeal on this basis."
The fuel is brought to Royal Portbury Dock by sea tanker, and pumped up to the storage tanks at Redcliffe Bay and Hallen. It is then pumped through an underground pipe network to several commercial airports throughout the country.
The underground pipeline runs under Portbury, through parts of Portishead, including the grounds of Gordano School and up to Redcliffe Bay. The depot was originally built by the Ministry of Defence in the 1950s to store fuel for military purposes and lay vacant for a number of years before being re-commissioned in 2005.