Plans to build storage site for 50 tonnes of explosives in Great Ouseburn sparks concerns

Lightmire Lane - Google Maps
Lightmire Lane - Google Maps
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An application to build a storage site for explosives and ammonium nitrate in Great Ouseburn has sparked concerns among local residents.

Brexco, a commercial explosive company, has applied to build three storage magazines to hold 50 tonnes of explosives and 200 tones of ammonium nitrate at the end of Lightmire Lane.

Village Hall - Google Maps

Village Hall - Google Maps

If approved, the site will be enclosed by fencing and encircled by earth bunds designed to absorb the energy in the event of an explosion.

The York-based company said the site's location has been dictated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the statuatory regulatory which licenses storage facilities for explosives.

The HSE requires such facilities to be at least 548m from homes meaning that development can only be within the open countryside.

In its planning statement, Brexco explained that the site offered the benefit of being at the end of a dead end track with no passing pedestrians or vehicle traffic.

However, Dunsforth Parish Council have argued that the route is frequently used by pedestrians and the proposed site would pose an "unnaceptable risk".

More than 100 objections have been launched online against the proposals by residents including Paul Thompson who lives at the head of Lightmire Lane.

Mr Thompson said: "I have lived in Great Ouseburn for 40 years and I know many people walk or bike down this road. It's a huge asset for the village.

"One of the residents has put a book where the site has been proposed. The book's been there for three or four weeks and it's been signed on average by 36 people a day.

"I'm sure there are more suitable sites and more secure sites if they look for them and we're not in the right part of the county to house a storage point.

"Having an explosive site in a small rural village seems totally inappropriate and would destroy a much used facility."

The HSE has already approved the application for the storage of explosives on the land, subject to the granting of planning permission by Harrogate Borough Council.

As a result, the HSE is satisfied in principle that the proposal is unlikely to create an unacceptable risk to the public due to its layout, method of storage and distances to other development.

The planning statement outlines a range of measures to keep the site secure, including a holding area for security checks, fencing and cameras for remote monitoring.

The statement read: "Explosive stores attract more police surveillance and so it means the nearest settlement to the access into the site is likely to see an increase in police coverage.

"For residents of the village this means they should feel more safe and secure.

"As the distance to the storage facility is beyong the necessary exclusion zone set by the HSE then its presence from a safety perspective should not cause any risk to residents of the village."

The company also explained that a nominated key holder, based at Brexco or their York home, must be within 20 minutes' drive of the site for security.

In a letter to Harrogate Borough Council, Nic Holmes, chair of the Planning Meeting, disagreed with the company's reasoning and stated that safety would be "dangerously compromised" by the development.

He wrote: "The applicant's contention that the site can reached in an emergency within 20 minutes from Brexco offices in York is incorrect.

"The contention that safety will be enhanced by this proposal because of increased police presence and responsiveness is also incorrect.

"The nearest permanently staffed police station to the site is in Harrogate, 14 miles from the proposed site.

"Also, the proposal to leave the site unmanned when response times to a security or safety issue fall outside any practical time window creates a heightened risk to public safety."

The company have also proposed that vans will need to access the site a couple of times every week in order to transport materials.

One lorry may also visit the site every month or so to deliver explosives for storage while the vans will remove a "small amount" of the material being stored.

However, Mr Thompson warned against the ongoing transport of hazardous materials past the Village Hall where children's group regularly meet.

He said: "I believe that the greater risk to the public will come when these materials are being transported in smaller vans.

"The perceived risk of these explosive should not be discounted. Especially when these three or four smaller vehicles will be travelling past the Village Hall on a daily basis.

"The hall is constantly used by community groups, some of them involving children, throughout the year. An accident of any sort would be horrendous."

Only a limited amount of explosives are manufactured in the UK with the majority imported from Central Europe where the principle manufacturing facilities are based.

However, maintaining sufficient supply across the UK is often difficult due to the limitations on imports and limited manufacturing capabilities in the country.

In its statement, Brexco stated industries requiring explosives, including mining operations can often be delayed due to insufficient storage for stock to be held.

The statement read: "This can then have various consequences, including delaying the supply of aggregates for construction projects.

"There is also a further issue which is that any explosives not in transit or use have to be returned to a licensed store.

"This means there need to be independent facilities across the country to provide safe storage.

"As a result, it is of importance to various industries, which rely on explosives, for a new commercial store to be created."

Brexco did not wish to comment when approached by the Advertiser.