MoD to sell former petrol storage dump ruled out by council as a jobs development site

Brownfield: The former Conoco petrol storage dump is to be sold by the MoD
Brownfield: The former Conoco petrol storage dump is to be sold by the MoD

A former petrol dump on the edge of the Pennines is to be sold by the Ministry of Defence, though possible future uses for the site remain unclear as it has been ruled out for development by council planners.

The Blackmoor Depot at Thurgoland in Barnsley was developed in the post-war years and was shrouded in mystery at the time, with requests for information about its purpose from local councillors firmly rejected by the Government officials overseeing the project.

In a more recent era it was better known as the Conoco depot because it was used as a distribution centre by that company – with one of its delivery tankers exploding into flames in a notorious incident on Ben Bank Road, Silkstone Common, in the late 1970s.

A series of large storage tanks remain on the site, partially submerged beneath earth bunds, along with concrete roads and other site infrastructure.

Development firm Yorkshire Land is interested in redeveloping the site as an business park, with an offer to pump £15m investment into the scheme, but that proposal was rejected when Barnsley Council’s recently adopted Local Plan – a document which provides a framework for where new homes and businesses will be developed in the next decade or more – was formulated.

Barnsley Council said the site, despite being ‘brownfield’ or previously developed, was returning to green belt status after remaining unused for many years.

Now the Ministry of Defence have issued a legal notice offering to sell the land back to the owners, or their descendants, it was acquired from when the depot was created.

That legal mechanism is called the Crichel Down Rules and gives those with previous ownership rights the first offer to buy the site, albeit at today’s market value.

Anyone interested in taking up that offer will need to act before March 25 because the MoD intend to advertise it on the open market after that point.

No indication of the land’s value has been given.

Any organisation wanting to redevelop the site would also face the major task of removing the old storage tanks.

Yorkshire Land had proposed the site for a business park with the intention of creating new jobs in the Penistone district and have since written to Barnsley Council to point out that the site would dovetail with Sheffield City Region Mayor Dan Jarvis’s ambition to promote cycling as a form of sustainable transport.

The Mayor, also Barnsley Central MP, has highlighted plans for more measures such as cycle lanes to encourage bicycle use and Yorkshire Land believe the Blackmoor site’s position alongside the Trans Pennine Trail fits with the Mayor’s objectives because it provides an off road cycle route to the site directly from Penistone and smaller surrounding communities.

Only one site in west area of Barnsley borough has been earmarked for job creation under the Local Plan at that site may prove challenging to develop because of its topography.

A problem for businesses operating close to Penistone is that the town is surrounded on all major access routes by low bridges. The Blackmoor Depot site would avoid that obstacle if development were ever allowed and would have easy access to arterial roads including the motorway network.