Call for ‘ridiculous’ Bacton gas liaison group to be scrapped

The explosion at Bacton Gas in 2008 was 'not an issue' for a liaison committee between the site operators and their neighbouring community, North Norfolk District Council heard.

The information was included in a list of answers about the workings of the Bacton Gas Terminal Liaison Committee given by its chairman, Wyndham Northam, responding to questions asked by councillor Graham Jones.

Liberal Democrat Mr Jones denounced the revelation as 'ridiculous' and has called for the committee to be scrapped.

He told last week's full NNDC meeting that this June's court case, which followed the explosion and fire, had revealed that up to 10 people could have been killed in the incident and that management had not acted on repeated safety warnings.

Shell UK, one of the site operators, was fined �1m after admitting a string of health, safety and environmental breaches which led to the explosion.

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Mr Jones claimed the liaison committee did not even attempt to meet its own terms of reference which include the consideration of any 'environmental or safety issue relating to the gas terminals which is likely to have an impact on the local community...'

He said the committee, which includes district councillors and officers, neighbouring parish councillors and Bacton Gas site representatives, was a 'private meeting of the few' which was accountable and reported to no-one but themselves.

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The plant imported some 25pc of the UK's gas. Mr Jones added; 'The public have a right to a much more pro-active and transparent liaison system.

'It is a truly shocking discovery to find how cavalier this committee has acted in respect of their duty. It smacks of incompetence of the highest order.'

But Conservative councillor Mr Northam defended the committee. He said there was a separate Emergency Planning Group which met with the terminal operators. The findings and recommendations of the Health and Safety Executive and Environment Agency following the explosion had been reported to that group and the Environment Agency had then given the liaison committee a brief overview of their investigation.

Although minutes of committee meetings were currently circulated between members, the possibility of wider circulation was being discussed and parish councillors attending were free to share committee discussions with their communities.

Mr Northam said the site operators had employed consultants to make sure that they were complying with the committee's terms of reference and he pointed out that over the past two years one Lib-Dem councillor on the committee had failed to attend any meetings and another had only attended one of a possible five.

He added: 'I can assure everyone that proper consultation and good relations with the local community are of paramount importance to all the terminal operators.'

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