Fears over chemicals at warehouse site

Date published: 07 December 2018

Concerned residents are demanding reassurances over the safety of a warehouse being used by a car-care products giant to store chemicals.

Tetrosyl has declared the levels currently being stored at the facility, in Castleton, do not require permission from the authorities.

It is still awaiting consent for plans to store up to 10,000 tons of hazardous substances at the building, despite applying in April last year.

The application has been made through Rochdale council’s planning department, but appears to have stalled due to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) waiting on further information from the company.

Residents remain anxious about the possibility of fires or other accidents at the site, with one branding it ‘potentially a massive accident waiting to happen’.

Fears are particularly high in the area due to memories of the huge fire at the Dunlop cotton mills in the 1960s, in which one employee lost his life.

And just two years ago a major blaze destroyed the former Carcraft site in Nixon Street.

A letter from Tetrosyl director David Rogers, read out at a Castleton Area Forum meeting this week, confirmed the amount of chemicals currently being stored at the Royle Barn Road site fell below the threshold where hazardous substance consent is required.

Residents and councillors have resolved to write to Rochdale’s Council’s chief executive, Steve Rumbelow, requesting he contacts the HSE to request a safety inspection at the warehouse.

Tom Brogan has been writing to both the council and the HSE on behalf of Castleton residents since last year.

He told the meeting: “The planning application was to store 9,600 tons of chemicals on that site, some of which were hazardous therefore needing health and safety approval. 

“We are still in the situation whereby the HSE say they’ve not got the information they asked for to either approve or reject it, so can’t give planning a view. It’s so frustrating.

“The only people that can go in are the HSE, and in response to my letters they have said they’re not going to go in, they’re going to wait and see what comes to them.”

“I would like Rochdale Council to ask the HSE to go in and satisfy themselves technically as to what is in there and what is safe and not safe.

“It’s been going on for 21 months now and we don’t know what’s going on.”

Councillor Billy Sheerin told the meeting he was also frustrated by the lack of clarity, describing the situation as ‘smoke and mirrors’ and saying residents had been left ‘in a fog’.

He said the council could only inspect the warehouse if a whistle-blower were to come forward.

He also asked for the letter to the chief executive to stress Castleton’s ‘history of industrial fires’.

“This is why we, as residents, are concerned,” he added.

Senior officials at Rochdale Council say the HSE has requested a further safety report from Tetrosyl, and the authority will not be able to decide on the application until receiving further guidance from the body.

A council spokesman said: “While the council is the enforcing authority, we rely on the knowledge and expertise of the HSE to advise on the regulations.”

“Tetrosyl has indicated that they intend to submit the revised safety report for assessment by HSE in the new year, and if this is found to be acceptable, HSE will draw up a programme of follow-up inspections to ensure that the site operates in line with the information set out in the report.”

Tetrosyl has been approached for comment.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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