By Tony Earnshaw Local Democracy Reporter
PLANNERS have defied health and safety experts to add four new retail units to the Centre 27 Business Park at Birstall.
They said the financial benefits attached to the multi-million pound project outweighed potential health risks.
The four units will be built at Bankwood Way on a now-vacant site previously occupied by eight office blocks.
However, it is close to the depot of Tennants Distribution Ltd, a low-tier COMAH (Control of Major Accident Hazards) site that has bulk storage for acids and chemicals. It is considered to be a ‘hazardous installation’.
The development area is within the middle and outer zone of the COMAH site, with the majority being in the middle zone. That led the Health and Safety Executive to advise that there were sufficient reasons, on safety grounds, for advising against the granting of planning permission in this case.
Coun Liz Smaje, inset (Con, Birstall and Birkenshaw), said she had “grave concerns” that the council was looking to override the HSE’s advice.
She also warned that rising levels of traffic would further impact on already congested roads, principally the A62.
Her comments were echoed by party colleague Coun Donald Firth (Con, Holme Valley South).
Coun Smaje said: “The Health and Safety Executive do not say things just for the sake of saying things. If there is something wrong or they’re not happy then we should follow that line.
“I would not want to put my name to anything that the Health and Safety Executive was against to find out in later years that something happened. I am very wary of this.”
In backing the plan, planning committee member Coun Carole Pattison said half of the existing retail park was in the middle of the hazardous zone, as were restaurants and eateries.
She said: “There’s already quite a lot of activity going on in that zone. I am personally prepared to override the HSE advice on this because the advantages do outweigh it.”