A CONTROVERSIAL plan to extend a fuel storage and distribution depot has been refused.
PAR Petroleum wanted to build a parking area for seven extra tankers on green belt land next to its existing premises on the Lumley Sixth Pit industrial estate at Fence Houses.
Durham County Council’s planning officers recommended approval for the plan, but in an unusual move, councillors went against the recommendation and refused permission.
The firm will now consider its options which could include an appeal, or closing the depot and relocating elsewhere.
The planning committee meeting at Chester-le-Street Civic Centre was told more than 130 residents opposed the plan mainly on over safety fears and the fact it would be built on green belt land.
Planning officer Steve France said: “Permission can be given for developing on Green Belt, but there must be very special circumstances. As planners we are not experts on safety, but we have consulted the various bodies which are, and none have raised any objections. The safety risk of the site has been categorised as no more than a petrol filling station.”
Christopher Warren, for PAR, told the meeting: “No extra fuel will be stored on site. The application is for hardstanding only and is a relatively small incursion into the green belt.”
Councillors were told the extra parking is needed for PAR to service new contracts which would mean an additional six jobs.
Ward councillor Alan Bell said: “I have never known so much opposition to a proposal. As elected members, we are here to represent the residents, and that is what we should be doing in this case.”
Planning committee member Coun Nigel Martin said: “It strikes me this type of business would be better carried out away from houses and other amenities. I have concerns about the safety aspect, and from what we’ve been told I don’t think there is enough evidence for us to approve it.”
Committee member Coun Owen Temple said: “There is an element of development creep here. The green belt is there for the protection and amenity of residents. That will be lost if we approve this.”
The plan was refused by seven votes to one.