Residents’ concerns about plans to store up to 4,999 tonnes of a potentially highly explosive fertiliser at Keadby are “purely reaction to scare stories” claimed a spokesman for the company behind the scheme.
But people living near the planned storage site on Station Road have demanded the company withdraw its application after it professed to “have a duty of care to the residents of Keadby”.
PD Ports’ general manager for the Humber, Paul McGath, spoke of “exaggerated claims” after a hastily-called public meeting at which four senior company managers met with angry householders. He said a decision on whether PD Ports presses on with the storage application will be made within a week.
The company sought villagers’ views on the recommendation of North Lincolnshire Council before a formal planning application is processed. Last Wednesday saw up to 50 people quiz PD Ports bosses in a church hall, after the opportunity to do so was posted up in Keadby post office and a social club.
A petition against the plans, of 600 names gathered over five days, has been presented to North Lincolnshire Council.
Mr McGath said after the stormy meeting that he was “not surprised at the strong feeling of the community because of scare stories that have been put about.”
Ammonium nitrate fertiliser was involved in a blast last year that killed 15 people in the town of West in Texas. Keadby householders have pointed to other big explosions linked to the substance in France and America.
Mr McGath said there has been “just one explosion in this country in 1916.” He insisted the risk of transporting and storing ammonium nitrate is “miniscule” and that “people have been misled.”
He added: “I live next to a petrol station - petrol is volatile but the risk of an explosion is virtually nil, and it is the same here. There are strict rules for storage that we adhere to. This substance travels freely on roads throughout the country. If we wanted to, we could store 999 tons of ammonium nitrate without a license, but we choose to be transparent and do things properly.
“We will review the situation and come to a decision.”
The company has never withdrawn an application previously in response to residents’ objections, he added.
Crowle town councillor Trevor Barker attended the meeting but said he only found out about it “last minute” because it was not widely publicised.
He said: “The PD Ports people seemed quite astounded at the depth of questioning at the meeting. But they said they had a moral obligation to support the people of Keadby if they were against the storage of ammonium nitrate in their locality, so we will see ...”
He continued: “It’s not what people want in a residential area. We rejected the scheme out of hand and asked the company to withdraw totally. Now we will wait to see what happens. If the planning application is validated there will be 21 days for the town council and people to make their views known.
“The bottom line is, this stuff can cause massive explosions and is a highly unstable commodity. If the plans are validated, then it is clear the company will have taken nothing into consideration, morally speaking. That’s my view.”