Football pitch next to Surrey oil terminal approved despite public safety concerns

A new artificial pitch for a football club next to an oil terminal has been approved as the community benefits were said to ‘vastly outweigh any increased risk’.
Ashford Town FC Football Pitch layout for artificial grass. (Credit: Spelthorne Council Documents)Ashford Town FC Football Pitch layout for artificial grass. (Credit: Spelthorne Council Documents)
Ashford Town FC Football Pitch layout for artificial grass. (Credit: Spelthorne Council Documents)

Arguing the scheme will improve the local community and increase opportunities for individuals from under-represented backgrounds, the application was called in by Cllr Sean Beatty (Ashford North and Stanwell South).

He said: “Spelthorne has the highest deprivation in Surrey. At least one third experience at least one category of deprivation.

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“Out of 709 areas in Surrey, my ward is the ninth most deprived and has the lowest number of physically active adults.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) raised concerns the new pitch would increase the number of visitors at Ashford Town Football Club, next to Esso West London Oil Terminal, and could create a heightened risk to public safety.

An accident at an oil terminal may result in uncontrolled spills, fires and explosions which could harm human life and the surrounding environment.

Considering the HSE’s objection, council officers recommended for the proposal to be rejected.

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A committee heard last night (6 March) from Chairman of the club Nick Bailey said: “We are the biggest sports facility in the catchment area.”

A shortage of recreational and leisure facilities in the borough was noted by the planning committee, particularly in Ashford.

Nick added: “To lose a club of our size within our area would be an absolute travesty.”

Nick told the committee that over the last 18 years he has been part of the club, he has seen nine junior teams grow to 31, looking after 400 children which equated to around 350 families.

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The new pitch would allow other football clubs to train on Ashford’s grounds in bad weather, increasing use of the site over a weekly period.

But the HSE believe the greater use of the pitch over a prolonged period would increase the number of people visiting a site adjacent to hazardous substances.

Councillors were conflicted by the HSE’s objection to the new pitch as a danger to public safety when the stadium had been used by the club for 40 years.

Cllr Chris Bateson said: “The site is either safe or it’s not safe.”

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“Why would we be able to carry on as we are, but not be able to carry on as a 3G pitch?” Nick said. “If there’s a risk there, then surely you ask us to leave. Because I don’t want to put our families, our kids, or our community in any form of danger.”

Safety precautions and training in place at the oil terminal were discussed as a way of mitigating the potential for an accident. The HSE categorised the level of risk for a major incident next to the site as small, and Esso also raised no objections to the development.

Spelthorne Council voted nine in favour of minded-approval of the plan, two against and two abstentions.

The decision will be reviewed by the HSE who will have 21 days to determine whether to refer it to the Secretary of State for final approval.