Buncefield lessons learnt in light of new plans to store petrol nearby

Buncefield fire

Buncefield fire - Credit: Archant

Reassurances that lessons were learnt after Buncefield may comfort residents in light of plans to store more petrol nearby.

In the last 10 years both jet fuel, petrol, and diesel have been stored in tanks close to the former Buncefield site at Hemel Hempstead.

From 2018, BP are transforming the depot from a mixture of fuels to purely ground fuels - petrol and diesel - and has submitted a planning application to Dacorum Borough Council for permission.

Residents have raised concerns about the safety of the plans, recalling the huge petrol explosion of 2005. It caused a fire which spread to 19 other tanks and an explosion 2.4 on the Richter scale.

Hertfordshire’s chief fire officer Darryl Keen said they make sure all safety legislation is complied with and that BP take the risks seriously.

He said regular exercises take place around the county, through the Local Resilience Forum and Herts Resilience: “These training events, shaped by our experiences at the Buncefield explosion in 2005, are designed to test potential responders to an emergency anywhere in Hertfordshire and to ensure that we are well practiced and suitably prepared. The Buncefield site operators actively and regularly support HFRS and Herts Resilience training events.”

Head of planning and building control for St Albans district council, Tracy Harvey, said these safety decisions are lead by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE): “The executive provides guidance on what land near such sites should or should not be considered for development and for what types of buildings and uses.”

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Any developments close to the Hemel Hempstead terminal have abided by the executive’s guidelines, she said.

A spokesperson from HSE said it has supported the Major Incident Investigation Board after the Buncefield 2005 explosion: “We diligently execute our role as the statutory consultee giving advice based on safety reasons. Ultimately, however, the decision on the granting of planning permission rests with the planning authority.”

He stressed that BPA and BP need to demonstrate that all necessary preventative measures have been implemented before it gives approval for a change in how fuel is stored.