The Environment Agency has formally objected to the application for a petrol station and supermarket on the outskirts of Ludlow. The agency is concerned about the petrol filling station (PFS) and the location of fuel storage tanks. In a letter sent to Shropshire Council on 13 April it says:
Whilst we note that this application is outline we seek confirmation on the PFS element of the proposals and, specifically, the location of the associated tanks to ensure no detrimental impacts on controlled waters.
The agency is taking issue because the fuel tanks might be located below ground:
We will object to underground storage on principal and secondary aquifers unless there is evidence of overriding reasons why: (a) the activity cannot take place on unproductive strata, and (b) the storage must be underground (for example public safety), in which case we expect the risks to be appropriately mitigated.
The application should confirm that there are no other reasonably available sites on unproductive strata. A feasibility study should confirm that there is a need for the tanks to be below ground; and that above ground options are not possible. We acknowledge there is a balance to be struck between environmental harm and proximity to sensitive uses, public safety, hazard zones including consideration of comments by your Petroleum Officer. Providing this is confirmed, and the tanks are required to be underground, we would require the tanks be set above the water table.
The Environment Agency is recommending investigations of the exact level of the ground water table. If the tanks penetrate into the water table the agency says: “It may be necessary for the application to be revised or refused.” It continues: “In the absence of a water table assessment we have concerns and would object to the proposed development as submitted at this time.”
This objection is not a showstopper. It is the Environment Agency making it clear that it will not tolerate underground tanks unless there genuinely is no option and significant safeguards.
We have seen a similar situation at the proposal for a petrol filling station on Bromfield Road. The agency objected and the developer reacted by raising the tanks to be mostly above ground level. The agency then withdrew its objection.
When the application be decided?
The Environment Agency’s objection will no doubt delay processing of this application.
Another matter delaying a decision on the application is that Shropshire Council planners have requested further information from the developer about the retail impact of the scheme on the town centre.