Planning consent to hold hundreds of tonnes of a hazardous chemical in Haydock has been approved by St Helens Council.
Haulage company John K. Philips Group sought consent to store Cobalt carbonate and Cobalt hydroxide oxide at levels above the controlled quantity stated in law at Fishwicks Industrial Estate in Kilbuck Lane.
Both substances are considered a serious health hazard and are also considered to be toxic to the aquatic environment.
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.
The applicant said on average, six tonnes of Cobalt carbonate and 14 tonnes of Cobalt hydroxide oxide will be transported to and from the site per week.
There would be no processing of the substances on-site and they would be stored in UN-approved containers inside the building.
The amount proposed to be stored is above the controlled quantity stated in legislation, so therefore hazardous substance consent was required.
A council report says the nearest residential properties are located on Kilbuck Lane approximately 80m away from the site and Kenyons Lane North approximately 110m to the south of the site.
St Helens Council’s planning committee heard the application on Tuesday.
The panel was told the local authority received a total of 32 letters of objection from members of the public.
Melanie Hale, the council’s service manager for development, said “significant weight” should be attached to the response of the borough’s Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Competent Authority.
In St Helens’ case, the Competent Authority is the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency.
Neither body raised any objections on technical grounds to the granting of hazardous substances consent.
In its response, the HSE said the risks to the surrounding population arising from the proposed storage of Cobalt carbonate and Cobalt hydroxide oxide at the site are “so small there are no significant reasons, on safety grounds, for refusing the hazardous substance consent application”.
Ms Hale said: “So, on the whole, the COMAH Competent Authority is advising there is no reason not to grant hazardous substances consent.
“In land use terms, there would be little impact.
“The application site is already used for storage and distribution and is located on an industrial estate and granting consent would not restrict existing activities at the site or any existing or future activities in the vicinity.”
Ms Hale said the evidence before the council shows the residual risk and the impact is of the application is “acceptable” and therefore recommended consent be granted.
Paul Costello, a resident who lives close to Fishwicks Industrial Estate, spoke to the planning committee as a public speaker.
The retired firefighter said the data provided by the HSE has confirmed the substances have the ability to cause cancer, damage fertility or an unborn child, is suspected of causing genetic defects, may cause allergy or asthma symptoms or breathing difficulties if inhaled, may cause damage to organs through prolonged exposure and may cause an allergic skin reaction.
Mr Costello said: “When deciding this application, I would ask the committee consider the serious concerns of a number of residents who have submitted objections, some who are elderly and are already suffering with breathing conditions such as COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
“Other more suitable sites away from residential premises are available, and I would also ask that site security is considered as only very recently the site was breached unlawfully by a number of travellers.”
Paul Parkinson, chairman of the Residents against the Florida Farm Developments, also spoke as a public speaker and urged the planning committee to refuse the application.
Labour’s Richard McCauley, cabinet member for economic regeneration and housing, said he had “great sympathies” with residents.
However, the Thatto Heath councillor said it was a “no brainer” the committee grant consent and formally moved to accept the recommendations.
Coun McCauley, who works as a health and safety advisor, said he believed the company is taking the measures in preparation for Brexit.
“We’re doing very similar (things) in my place of work”, Coun McCauley said.
“We’re stocking up because of Brexit and the uncertainties around Brexit.
“And I guess this is what these are doing as well. Everybody is looking at the quantities and making sure they can keep going.
“While I do share great sympathies with residents, and I do, I formulate that we move to accept the recommendations.”
St Helens Council’s planning committee granted hazardous substance consent, subject to a condition set out in the planning committee report.