“We are all scared.” That was the message relayed to Central Bedfordshire councillors from mobile home owners, who fear the consequences of sparks from nearby housing causing an explosion.
More than 4,000kg of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is stored for use by the residents at a site in Biggleswade, a meeting heard on Wednesday.
Their concerns – as first reported by the Chronicle in August – relate to a proposed Taylor Wimpey development for 200 properties on land off Saxon Drive, close to the Stratton Park Drive mobile home site.
Outline plans for the new homes were approved in September 2017 on a site which is owned by Central Bedfordshire Council.
“Each and every one of our lives on the mobile home site lies at risk,” resident Sue Bowen told the council’s development management committee. “We have LPG, 47 kilos each, and we have four of them facing this (housing) site, with rubber hoses carrying the gas.
“You and only you will be responsible for not if … but when this site goes up in flames,” she warned.
“We have no barbecues, no bonfires. You have no idea the stress you have caused to a small elderly community on our site and we are all scared.”
Independent Biggleswade South councillor Hayley Whitaker said: “The main hazard associated with LPG is it’s highly flammable. It’s also a very dense gas.
“So even if small amounts leak from cylinders or from tubing it will sink and lie low in the ground in natural dips or hollows. Any firework or any ember landing in this gas is likely to cause an explosion.
“The fire service is clear. Once one mobile home catches fire, it is likely they will all catch fire.”
“A local authority would have a duty of care if it has created the source of danger,” she was told by CBC monitoring officer Stephen Rix in an email.
“This is CBC land and by permitting building so dangerously close to flammable homes and gases this council is creating a source of danger,” she added.
“That would make this council liable if anything ever happened to these homes and the elderly people which occupty them. Are you really prepared to take that chance?”
Mike Jones spoke on behalf of client Taylor Wimpey (South Midlands) saying: “The principle of residential development and access to the site has been established. The open space to the south of the site provides a green buffer to the adjacent Stratton Park Drive mobile home site.
“This is deemed sufficient in respect of residential amenity and safeguarding for the offset of hazards, such as the storage of gas cyclinders which has been discussed.”
Independent Houghton Conquest and Haynes councillor Rebecca Hares said: “I have grave concerns that the fire service was not consulted on LPG. There’s more than 4,000kg of LPG on that site.”
Planning officer Ben Tracy said: “It’s a matter for the Health and Safety Executive. There is a threshold.
“This application falls below that threshold. The onus lies with the landowner who stores LPG, under HSE legislation.”
Approval of the plans was defeated 4-3, with 5 abstentions.
Councillors then voted 7-3, with 3 abstentions, to defer the scheme for a month, so “the perceived risks” can be assessed by the HSE and Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service.