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. 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, prior to the disaster, consultant Entec produced a report 'The Gorham Concept' for land owner Crown Estates, outlining Hemel Hempstead's expansion potential. Opponents to the development argue that the 'Gorham Concept' was out of date as soon as Buncefield exploded as the disaster went beyond what industry thought was possible from such a site.Despite this, the report supports the Examination in Public of EERA's East of England Plan, which proposes new homes close to Buncefield. A small corner of the East of England's planned development sits inside the consultation zone but all of it is within the area damaged by the 2005 blast. A consultation on revising the planning procedure for developments around dangerous sites is expected to be launched at the end of this month.