Blast threat to school plan
EXPERTS RULE NEW SITE TOO CLOSE TO GAS PLANT, BUT COUNCIL SAYS PUPILS AND PUBLIC ARE NOT AT RISK
PLANS for the new high school in Oban have been opposed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) because it falls within the blast zone of a nearby gas storage site.
The HSE said the new school site would be in the outer blast zone of a liquid nitrogen gas (LNG) storage plant in the town’s Lochavullin industrial estate and, as such, was considered a potential ‘major hazard.’
However, Argyll and Bute council has robustly defended the site of the new school, which is in the same campus area as the existing school buildings.
A council spokesman dismissed fears that there was any risk to pupil or public safety, stating that the HSE had assessed the potential hazard of the present school location as ‘not sufficient to warrant intervention in terms of closing down of the facility or moving the population’.
The plans for the new school were set to go before councillors at a meeting of the planning and regulatory services committee yesterday ( Wednesday), as the Oban Times went to press.
The HSE objected to the plans in May and again this month in light of ‘public safety’.
It asked the council to ‘consider alternative sites for the school.’
An HSE spokesman said: ‘Our practice is to use the land use planning system as a means of reducing those populations exposed to risk in order to prevent major accidents. We consider the rebuilding of the school as an ideal opportunity to look at alternative locations, increasing the separation between sensitive locations and the major hazard.’
The HSE describes the potential risk as a ‘failure of the largest LGN storage vessel, resulting in the emission of a large fireball for a few seconds emitting heat which could be harmful to persons in the vicinity.’
HSE claims this could lead to ‘serious injury or even fatality’.
It continued: ‘At this distance, the building would likely offer significant protection, but it is the risk to people outside that has prompted the objection.’
Papers given to councillors from Argyll and Bute planners stated: ‘The HSE has been appraised of the exercise undertaken by the council to evaluate potential alternative development sites, all of which have been dismissed for various reasons in favour of the school continuing to occupy its present site.
‘The HSE’s approach would effectively undermine the continued function of the town centre by seeking to utilise any redevelopment opportunity as a means of reducing populations at risk.’
SGN - formerly Scottish Gas networks, - which runs the Lochavullin gas plant, said: ‘The Oban gas network is independent of the main gas network in Scotland. LNG gas is transported to Oban, stored at our site and then distributed around the local gas network.
‘Our gas storage sites comply fully with our statutory obligations and Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) regulations.
‘We have a proven track record of maintaining safe gas storage sites and a safe and reliable sup- ply to the local area.We would add that the likelihood of the scenarios outlined in the HSE’s comments are exceedingly unlikely.’
An Argyll and Bute spokesman said: ‘The comments from HSE are reflected on as a material planning consideration.
‘The council will then take a view on the application in its entirety and either grant or refuse planning permission.
‘Should the application be approved, due to the formal objection from HSE, a statutory consultee, the council will notify Scottish ministers (the Scottish government) who will then take a view on whether or not to call the application in for their determination.’
If the new school plan is approved by councillors, the local authority will have to explain to the Scottish government why it decided to reject the HSE objection.
RISK FACTOR: the gas storage site at Lochavullin industrial estate