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Financial Times: Business leaders wary of Buncefield proposal

By Rebecca Bream
Published: July 24 2007 03:14 | Last updated: July 24 2007 03:14

BP’s plan to resume storage of petrol and diesel at the Buncefield oil depot in Hertfordshire has been met by stiff opposition from business and council leaders in the area.

The Buncefield depot near Hemel Hempstead was the site of the largest explosion in peacetime Europe in December 2005 when a leak of petrol vapour caught fire. The blast injured 43 people, forced 2,000 from their homes and shut dozens of businesses.

The depot is owned by Total of France and Chevron Texaco of the US. BP and Shell own stakes in the British Pipeline Agency that operated storage tanks on the site and are part of the consortium running the West London pipeline supplying jet fuel to Heathrow.

BP said last month it planned to reopen its storage tanks at Buncefield and re-start supplies of jet fuel to Heathrow, subject to permission from Dacorum borough council and the health and safety authorities.

But there is strong local opposition to storing fuel at Buncefield, and business figures claim it could harm the area’s economic recovery.

Roy Bain, director of the Maylands Partnership, which is involved in the site’s regeneration, said there was “a degree of heightened anxiety regarding petrol storage”, and that some businesses might be driven away.

BP’s applications for planning permission to restart operations at the site are due to be discussed by Dacorum council in September.

The company said yesterday it was “very aware of the concerns of the business community”, but stressed that the explosion did not occur at its part of the site.

The company added: “We are working closely with the relevant authorities on our reopening plans … safety is our priority. We will not reopen the site until we have had the all-clear on safety issues.’’

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

 

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