Planning application to store hazardous chemical at St Helens industrial estate to be considered

The application is at Fishwicks Industrial Estate in Haydock
The application is at Fishwicks Industrial Estate in Haydock

A planning application seeking permission to hold up to 340 tonnes of a toxic chemical considered a serious health hazard is due to be decided next week.


Haulage company John K. Philips Group applied for planning consent to allow the storage of Cobalt carbonate and Cobalt hydroxide oxide at Fishwicks Industrial Estate in Haydock.

The application, which will be heard by St Helens Council’s planning committee next week, is required as the substances are considered to be hazardous to the aquatic environment.

Additionally, the amount to be stored is above the controlled quantity stated in legislation.

As well as being toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects, the chemicals also pose a number of health risks.

According to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), which is the driving force among regulatory authorities in implementing the EU’s chemicals legislation, Cobalt carbonate and Cobalt hydroxide oxide may cause cancer and is also suspected of causing genetic defects.

A planning committee report says the nearest residential properties are 130m to the south.

The estate balancing pool is 600m from the site and the nearest watercourse is 1.2 miles away.

“Due to the nature of the products to be stored and the proximity of the watercourses it is considered unlikely that the storage of materials would cause a major accident or to aggravate the consequences of a major accident,” the council report says.

“In addition, all drains are covered during loading and unloading to avoid entry of substances into the watercourse.”

The application seeks permission to store and load a maximum of 100 tonnes of Cobalt carbonate and up to 240 tonnes of Cobalt hydroxide oxide.

However, the applicant has stated this is the maximum expected stock level that it may require to hold at any one time.

The applicant said an average of six tonnes of Cobalt carbonate and an average of 14 tonnes of Cobalt hydroxide oxide will be transported to and from the site per week.

It said there would be no processing and the substances would be stored in UN approved flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBC’s) inside the building.

The council report says the hazardous substances will be delivered to a facility in Widnes as and when it is needed.

The applicant has also stated that the proposal will result in the expansion of the business and create two to four jobs once fully operational.

At the time of writing the report, the council had received 18 letters of objection as a result of a public consultation, covering a range of concerns.

One resident said a fire at the proposed storage site or in an adjacent building could lead to “catastrophic consequences” for Haydock and its residents.

Another said the site would be a “disaster waiting to happen”.

“We are dealing with a substance that is cancer causing and gives great problems to skin and respiration,” the objector wrote.

“It can also cause cells to mutate and harm pregnant women. A disaster waiting to happen.

“Substances like this should be kept will away from any sort of housing.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency were consulted over the application.

Neither raised any objections on technical grounds to the granting of hazardous substances consent.

A range of other organisations, including Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, were consulted, with none raising any objections.

Planning officers recommend the planning committee grant hazardous substance consent, subject to a condition the hazardous substances shall not be kept or used other than in accordance with the particulars provided on the hazardous substances application form, nor outside the area marked for storage of the substances on the plan which formed part of the application.

The application will be heard by St Helens Council’s planning committee on Tuesday, September 3 at 5.30pm.