Plans to build up to 12,000 homes around the Buncefield oil depot that exploded in December 2005 were this week condemned by local MP Mike Penning.
Penning said he has requested an urgent meeting with communities secretary Ruth Kelly to halt plans by the East of England Regional Assembly (EERA) and the Government Office for the East of England to build homes near Buncefield.'It seems ludicrous that plans are going ahead when the inquiry into Buncefield is still ongoing,' said Penning.On Wednesday last week 200 residents of Hemel Hempstead voted unanimously to halt development plans until the Buncefield inquiry is completed and any recommendations are acted on. This could take several years.In November 2005 consultant Entec produced a report, The Gorham Concept
, for land owner Crown Estates detailing Hemel Hempstead's expansion potential.Opponents of the development argue that The Gorham Concept
was out of date as soon as Buncefield exploded. The disaster went beyond what the industry thought was possible at such a site.Despite this, the report was then used to support the Examination in Public of EERA's East of England Plan. The plan detailed new homes close to Buncefield.As it stands a very small corner of EERA's planned development sits inside the consultation zone, but all of it is within the area damaged by the 2005 blast.The Entec report does not identify the Buncefield depot as a risk. It merely highlights the development's proximity to the Health & Safety Executive's (HSE) consultation zone. Such zones are established around dangerous sites by the HSE and any plans to build within the zone must be reviewed by it.Residential housing is discourage, but the HSE has no power to veto it. A consultation on revising the planning procedure for developments around dangerous sites is expected to be launched at the end of this month.