Monday, 7 November 2016

Here we go again

In 2012, Durham County Council Planning Committee REFUSED a planning application by Par Petroleum to extend their site into the green belt. The Committee voted OVERWHELMINGLY (7-1) against the application for the following reasons:
  • The application was not deemed to be a "very special circumstance" to warrant incursion into the greenbelt; and 
  • There was considered to be too much risk to the surrounding amenity due to the nature of their business  - flammable fuel storage and distribution.
Par Petroleum have this week submitted another planning application, which if successful will significantly increase the size of the site to enable overnight parking for fuel tankers. They again propose to build this extension in the green belt area and nearer to residential properties increasing the risk to local residents – the very reasons the application was refused in 2012 by our Local Councillors.

The company say they need to extend because the Department for Transport (DfT) recently visited the depot and recommended that they make some changes to its size and layout.

However this time though, these required changes aren’t just to allow the business to grow or create a very small number of jobs – if you remember they threatened to leave the site if planning permission wasn’t granted in 2012 (it wasn’t and yet they are still here). This time they say it is to improve security and safety as the DfT have identified that the business could actually be a target for terrorist activity as flammable fuel and tankers are stored at the depot. Please don’t think we are scaremongering here - its actually so much a threat that neither the Department for Transport nor Par Petroleum will share this report with us, as the information included in it is so sensitive that it may threaten the security of the site if it falls into the wrong hands. Its also worth remembering that the UK’s threat level is currently rated as ‘Severe’ meaning an attack somewhere in the UK is highly likely so it could happen anywhere – not just in a major city or tourist attraction. Par Petroleum is therefore a potential prime target.

Worryingly, in their report, the DfT have actually stated that Par Petroleum have some significant deficiencies with regard to the sites perimeter protection and access control (who enters the site) so they need to make changes quickly; the application is to move the tankers away from the fuel storage to reduce the risk of an explosion, fire and size of the area affected BUT the proposal actually moves them nearer to the residential area and houses.

It would appear that Par Petroleum feel that Durham County Council should simply support and fast track this application as they need to immediately address the issues by extending the site and yet again it looks as though the Council Planning Team will dismiss our concerns and support Par Petroleum in their planning application – the council actually describe the proposals as ‘A new parking facility’ - despite all of the objections (there was over 225 objections made by residents and businesses in 2012) and members of the Planning Committee dismissing the original application. In fact since the 2012 application was refused there has been several major incidents in different parts of the country at a fuel storage depots and more recently at caravan storage depot which threatened the local population and area so despite Par Petroleum and Durham County Councils ambivalent attitude they really do happen with catastrophic consequences – Woodstone Village has a fuel storage depot and caravan park next to one another!

The current application has not changed in any way so the reasons the Planning Committee made the decision to reject the application are still real and very relevant – albeit significantly more so this time.

In fact the report Par Petroleum are using as the rationale for the extension  - a report actually produced by the National Governing Body for their industry, the Department for Transport - confirms our original concerns and fears, as well as further highlighting that the risk is indeed very, very real. 

Not only should this latest planning application be rejected again, it should not be allowed anywhere near a local Planning Committee. This application raises the question as to why the Council actually allow such a site to operate on our doorstep.

Yet again we will be opposing these plans as the extension of the site will bring the risks closer to our homes and we hope you will too. This impact of these changes and the subsequent risk that they pose is very significant.

The application can be viewed online at

Please object to or to Mr Steve France, Durham County Council, Planning Development (North), Room 4/86-102, County Hall, Durham, DH1 5UL.

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