Updated explosives licence could wreck plans for a major new housing project alongside factory site

The future of a major housing project has been thrown into confusion by an application by a neighbouring business in Barnsley to update a licence to store explosives on site, which it says could mean a large new safety buffer where homes and roads could not be built.

Monday, 22nd April 2019, 7:38 am
Updated Monday, 22nd April 2019, 7:54 am
Safety zone: New legislation could increase buffer around this explosives magazine, say Clayton and Co

Clayton and Co in Penistone have had a licence from the Health and Safety Executive for the storage of explosives for the last 50 years but have now made an application to update that to comply with modern rules – which would mean a much larger buffer zone impinging on agricultural fields which were earmarked for a large housing development by Barnsley Council only three months ago.

The impact of an extended buffer – if approved – could be enough to undermine the profitability of the whole site, which would be a major blow for the council’s need to provide large numbers of new homes in the next five years.

That is necessary to meet the objectives of their Local Plan, a blueprint adopted in January which identified the major sites for both housing and job creation into the mid-2030s.

No decision has yet been made on the application, but HSE guidance suggests responsibility for the problems rests with the licence-holder, rather than their neighbours.

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Clayton’s premises are on a site off Halifax Road and one of the products they manufacture are railway detonators, which are attached to the tracks and triggered by approaching trains as a warning to work crews further down the line.

The explosives used in the manufacturing process are stored in a magazine, which needs an exclusion zone for safety purposes in case of an accidental detonation.

Managing Director Chris Bramall said the current licence application had been made to meet current HSE rules, with no intention to store additional explosives on site.

But today’s legislation meant a wider buffer was needed than the distance required historically, he said.

“We currently have a licence in place, which is perfectly valid. We are going through a legislation update,” he said.

“We are complying with our legal requirements to refresh our licence, there is no change to the quantities of explosives.

“There has been a change in legislation which increases the buffer zone for the quantities we are licenced for,” said Mr Bramall.

According to the HSE, once a licence is granted, it remains valid until it is revoked by the licensing authority.

They also suggest that changes to risk levels around an explosives store may “make the operations at the site unviable”.

The proposed housing site is off Well House Lane in Penistone and shares a boundary with Clayton and Co, with the existing buffer zone factored into development plans by Yorkshire Land, a Harrogate based development firm which has control of the site.

Although no planning permission has yet been granted for the site, its inclusion in the Local Plan means on technical issues could stand in the way of approval being given, with an expectation of around 500 new homes being created there.

That would be a major contribution to Barnsley Council’s obligation to ensure adequate numbers of new homes go up in the next five years, to meet the objectives of the Local Plan.

A spokesman for the HSE said risks such as houses, roads and railways were taken into consideration when a licence was granted and were called “protected places”.

“If, due to changes in the protected places surrounding a site, the necessary separation distances can no longer be met then the licence would be reviewed to ensure that those places continued to be appropriately protected. 

“This may result in a reduction in the quantity or change to the type of explosives which could be manufactured and /or stored at the site.

“Such changes may make the operations at the site unviable.”

Changes to an existing licence creating “significant new health and safety issues” would need asset, or approval, from the local authority. Before such a decision could be made, the application would have to be publicised, with the possibility of a public hearing.

“The purpose of the local authority assent process is for the local authority to satisfy itself that any local factors bearing on the safety of the operation of the site or the health and safety of members of the public have been considered by HSE in setting the licence conditions,” said the spokesman.

Barnsley Council’s Executive Director for Place, Matt Gladstone, said: “The Council has not been formally approached by either the HSE or the company regarding such an issue but, if we were, the Local Plan allocation would be something we would have to consider when deciding how to respond.” The council had allowed for a wider buffer when allocating the site in the Local Plan, he added.