A few times of late, I have heard rumours that the plans for a new convenience store and filling station on the corner of Coronation Avenue and Bromfield Road have been turned down (14/00563/FUL). I have also heard that it has been approved.

The application has yet to be decided. The sticking point is, unsurprisingly, concerns from the Environment Agency about having fuel storage tanks below the ground, just above the water table and adjacent to the river Corve. The applicant has asked for a decision to be delayed until the end of August to give time to counter the Environment Agency’s objections.

I don’t believe for one moment that those objections can be resolved. This hydrogeological diagram from the Risk Assessment for Underground Fuel Storage shows why.

hydrogeological modelSLR Consulting Ltd

The site is sand and gravel overlying Raglan Mudstone. The mudstone is a Secondary A aquifer, so it could be used for local water supplies and it feeds into the local rivers. The consultants say:

“Based on the topographic elevation of the Site and the depth to the groundwater table it seems unlikely that there is any potential for development of a downwards vertical gradient for groundwater in the superficial sand and gravel deposits to percolate into the Mudstone.”

In other words, water (and petrol spillages) from the site will flow laterally more quickly than they will permeate downwards.

The field between this site and the Corve often has standing water; this is “likely” to be fed from the aquifer. The site also “possibly recharges” Ludlow’s famous Boiling Well.

The top of the petrol tank farm is above the usual water table, the base well below. As we know, the water table rises in prolonged storm conditions.

The risk assessment does not consider the impact of flooding on the site. It assumes that the water table is a standard 2.5 metres below ground level. As we know, the water table rises and falls with weather conditions and is often considerably higher.

I cannot think of a more stupid place to put petrol tanks. This site is just 2.5 metres above the water table. Tuffins by comparison is 15 metres above. The empty SSG site opposite Smithfield is six metres above. We don’t yet have a hydrogeological assessment for the proposed petrol station at Rocks Green, but it likely to be similar to Harry Tuffins. Despite these alternatives, the consultants conclude: “There are no alternative sites in Ludlow or its vicinity which would allow for the underground storage of fuel in a non-productive aquifer.”

This is just nonsense as the consultants have constrained their search to the existing urban area without the slightest recognition that the town is set to expand. And they seem to ignore their own data that shows that several sites are more suitable than this one.

The petrol tanks will be surrounded by concrete which “should not be considered impermeable.” The concrete will slow leaks down but not stop them. There will be alarm and monitoring stations for leakage, and barriers to deal with forecourt leakage. But once petrol has leaked from the pipes, tanks or forecourt it won’t be retrievable.

We need another filling station. But we can’t take the risk of polluting the Corve and Teme, or having petrol-laced water bubbling out the Boiling Well.

Update 26 July: the Environment Agency objects

The Environment Agency told the Shropshire Star (26 July): “To help deliver sustainable development, we have advised the applicant to locate the tanks above ground, or at least above the water table, with appropriate protection measures. We hope to secure resolution to preserve the local water environment.”

Update 13 September: Decision delayed

The decision on planning has been delayed yet again. The agents have asked for another extension until the end of September as they struggle to satisfy Environment Agency concerns. They are now considering putting the petrol tanks above ground; not in my view much more sensible that sinking them into the ground. Planning permission has been granted to convert Tollgate Cottage into a café (14/00651/COU).

The Boiling Well from The Legendary Lore of the Holy Wells of Shropshire

“And once upon a time an old palmer journeying thither was stayed some days at Barnaby House by sickness, and the little maid of the house waited on him. Now, this little maid had very sore eyes. And when he was got well and was about to go on his way, he asked of her what he should do for her. ‘Oh, master,’ said she, ‘that my sight might be healed!’ Then he bade her come with him, and led her outside the town, till they stood beside the Boiling Well. And the old man blessed the well, and bade it have power to heal all manner of wounds and sores, to be a boon and a blessing to Ludlow as long as the sun shines and water runs. Then he went his way, and the little maid saw him no more, but she washed her eyes with the water, and they were healed, and she went home joyfully. And even to this day the well is sought by sufferers from diseases of the eyes.”

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