Blast threat to school plan

EX­PERTS RULE NEW SITE TOO CLOSE TO GAS PLANT, BUT COUN­CIL SAYS PUPILS AND PUBLIC ARE NOT AT RISK

The Oban Times - - News - LOUISE GLEN lglen@oban­times.co.uk

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

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