A developer has vowed to push on with plans for a housing and restaurant complex in Moray – despite concerns the site is too close to a “major hazard site”.
ANM Group lodged plans last year to build more than 100 homes on Elgin’s Linkwood Road.
But the development of the former mart has provoked fears from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) due to its proximity to Gleaner Fuels, which inspectors describe as a “major hazard site” because it can hold up to 48 tonnes of LPG gas.
And Sepa has also objected due to flooding concerns – which previously ended plans for a Sainsbury’s to be built on the site.
Planners are now redrawing the layout of the houses to ensure they are kept outside of the danger zone around the fuel business.
When the vision was unveiled, work was expected to begin before the end of this year – but now there is no timescale.
Planner John Findlay, from Aberdeen-based agent Ryden, said he was determined to address the concerns by revising the proposals.
He said: “It seems that part of the site falls within the boundary around Gleaner that HSE looks at.
“I’ve been working with them to look at the number of residential units you can have within that boundary. It will mean minor changes to the layout of the homes.
“The important thing for us is that it is an issue that we can fix.”
The nearest homes on Linkwood Road will be about 200 yards from Gleaner on the opposite side of the railway line.
However, dozens of homes are already built on Ashgrove Road where the fuel firm is based.
Mr Findlay added that following discussions with HSE, he believed the agency would be more favourable to the complex if houses were moved further away from Gleaner.
A consultation response from HSE states: “The possibility remains that a major accident could occur at an installation and that this could have serious consequences for the people in the vicinity.
“Although the likelihood of a major accident occurring is small, it is felt prudent for planning purposes to consider the risks to people in the vicinity of the hazardous installation.”
Inspectors stressed that different rules apply between new developments and existing sites.
Pub giant Marston’s, which has more than 1,700 branches across the UK, has already been lined up to run the restaurant in the complex.
Sepa has objected to the plans, which include 67 two or three-bedroom homes and 34 one or two-bedroom flats, due to the land being at risk of flooding once every 200 years.
But Alistair Kennedy, chairman of Elgin Community Council, blasted the agency’s concerns as “over the top”.
He said: “When you are objecting to something because it’s going to flood once in 200 years then it becomes a bit farcical.
“When you look back at the history of Elgin then a record like that would be pretty good. It would have to be an exceptionally rare occurrence.
“We were quite happy with the plans when we saw them. It almost looked like a little village. I think Sepa are going over the top.”
Mr Findlay added that drainage issues would prove “complex” to solve due to surface water running to Linkwood Road from elsewhere.
A letter from Sepa planning officer Clare Pritchett explained homes would be at risk if the Tyock Burn became blocked and requested more information about drainage.
She added: “The risk assessment states that the intention is to mitigate the flood risk at the site through landraising. This has the potential to increase flood risk to adjacent areas.”