A FUEL firm’s expansion plans have sparked fears it could become a terrorism target or the site of a future disaster on the scale of the Buncefield oil blaze.
PAR Petroleum wants to expand the parking area of its base in Fence Houses to give it more flexibility and safer storage of the tankers it uses as part of is distribution business.
The firm, which has been on the site since 1991, recently won a contract to provide aviation fuel to airports across England and Scotland, allowing it to add another seven members of staff to its 27-strong team and four more HGVs and trailers to its fleet.
It has said it will have to move to a bigger site outside the region if the plan is not approved and will not store more petrol on site than it does now.
But residents living close to the site in Lumley Sixth Pit Industrial Estate have lodged more than 130 objections, with about 40 repeating the concerns aired when the company previously applied to extend its hardstanding area. A petition of 50 names also submitted, backed by MP Kevan Jones.
A Durham County Council report into the planning application - which has been recommended for approval and will be discussed tomorrow - states many of the objections refer to the Buncefield explosion in Hemel Hempstead in 2005.
Objectors also claim the site “is an obvious terrorism target” and think it will contravene safety regulations, with the plot close to a school, community centre and an old people’s home.
The report by planning officer Steve France states: “In terms of health and safety it is re-emphasised the application does not propose permanent fuel storage within the extension, but will provide an extended parking area.
“There are no health and safety implications as regard fuel storage - there is none proposed.”
The company has said it appreciates concerns raised and has worked to address them through the site’s layout, screening, drainage and lighting.
The decision will be made at the council offices in Chester-le-Street at 2pm tomorrow and if approved, will be referred to the Secretary of State because it is on green belt land.