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The truths they don't want you to read....

Saturday, April 11, 2009

New school

With the plans for the new Nicolson Institute lodged for Planning Permission, a new problem has appeared over the horizon - the Health and Safety Executive are objecting to permission being granted, as the school is located too closely to the gas tanks on Sandwick Road.

Only this isn't a new problem.

And this shouldn't come as any surprise to any sitting Councillor or any of the senior staff in any of the departments and certainly not to the planners.

Why not?

Because in 2004 when the proposed new flats on the Auction Mart site at Inaclete Road were in front of the planning Committee they were the subject of an objection by the HSE as they were deemed to be too close to the gas tanks.

The Committee disagreed with this refusal, and the matter went to the Scottish Executive who sided with the HSE.

At that time, I pointed out to all the other Councillors that this meant that a huge area of Stornoway was sterilised from almost any building work for the foreseeable future. The HSE guidance was very clear and I asked the clerk to the Committee to write to every Director advising them of the this decision and that they must take account of this in any plans that they had for the future. I was especially concerned for the plans for Housing and for Education, as all new buildings within 250m of the tanks would be adversely affected by this decision.

On the map, draw a circle with 250m diameter centered on the gas works, and see the area impacted.

At later Council meetings I specifically asked about the impact of this decision on the proposed redevelopment of the Nicolson and I was explicitly told that there had been discussions with the HSE, and that the HSE had said they would not object to the new school.

Having read the guidance clearly, I was very dubious about this, and I made my reservations clear to the then Chair of Education, but I accepted the assurance from the officers that their consultations with the HSE had been productive.

Only it looks like we were misled to by the Council officers.

The most vociferous supporter of the plans for the Inaclete Road site was the Vice-Convener, so I have no doubt he will remember all of this accurately, and will also know that due to the HSE objection, the planning application will be decided by the Government.

So how the hell did the Council allow itself to end up in this mess, when the problem was known about 5 years ago and who misled the Council and the Councillors?

My wife says that I start too many sentences relating to the Council with the phrase "I don't believe that they have....." but really, this would be a fuck-up of epic proportions.

Victor Meldrew or Angus Nicolson?
For those who are interested, here is the relevant HSE Guidance. The new school falls into the OZ (Para 2.2), is a Level 3 or 4 building (Para 4.1) and is Development Type DT3. Look at the decision matrix (Para 5) and you will see that the building has been considered to be Level 4, or the most sensitive, and that none of the potentially mitigating rules thereafter affect the Advise Against position.


Anonymous said...

I was under the impression that the redundent N.A.T.O. oil tanks at the airport were going to be used, and the tanks in town would be removed completely.

Anonymous said...

Maybe now this hideous artefact will be re-designed by an decent architect....

Thats good news.

Whats bad news is another huge delay on this project - how incompetent are the Comhairle? It already seems like they are rushing to be seen to be doing something - but this approach is a dangerous mishandling of taxpayers money (or future taxpayers with it being "PPP hybrid" whatever that is!)

On a similar note - was there not proposals to relocate the gas works to Arnish?

Anonymous said...

Does the HSE decision matrix apply just for gas blast, because you also have another potentially overlapping zone centred on the fuel tanks in town. Maybe the HSE are being too careful, it might never happen, or will it?

Angus said...

The NATO Tanks are being looked at for petrol storage, but last I heard the MOD want them available in case the Cold War restarts.

There is new guidance re petrol tanks post Buncefield. It is probably safe to assume that there is a similar zone centered on Shell Street.

Anonymous said...

Nothing amazes me anymore with this council, plumbing new depths of arrogant ineptitude. Smacks of the attempts to revive the North Lewis Windfarm on the same tracts of land subject to EU habitat directives which scuppered the LWP plans.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The most lazy, incompetent, overpaid and over-promoted employee of the Comhairle is the Convenor. Does anyone know what he does, apart from sit on the fence and put a stop to any development including Sunday Ferries?

Anonymous said...

Erm 12:20pm, I think that you will find he was actually elected by our illustrious community.......

I was thinking of the ones who apparently "work" for a living except when they are on flexi time, training, "sick leave", holiday, strike, lunch break, tea break, meetings or just generally can't be arsed....

Anonymous said...

Another own goal from Comhairle nan Eilean. It's got the former Emergency Planning Officer off on one again.

The list of cockups/displays of incompetence and arrogance by this council is getting so long that I wonder what I've wondered for several years now about the genocidal New Labour government - how the f~*k do these people stay in? How long are we going to continue voting these people in? Is this the best we've got?

Anonymous said...

Cillit are apparently going to launch a range of cleaning products, just for Lewis residents. "Bang and the town is gone."

Anonymous said...

LMAO 10.21 AM

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is the best we've got, but it seems that at election time there is always this panic-mongering to the effect that we are in one crisis or another and we need old experienced hands at the helm. Everyone seems to forget that this shower are responsible for the status quo. Anyway there are more important issues facing us like strictly maintaining the Sabbath.

Anonymous said...

Notice that there's no defence from the public sector employees, that's because they have all had the long weekend off, at our expense again and only surf during working hours at our expense........

Anonymous said...

7.43- don't forget Charlies BIG ISSUE- dogshit!
(is it allowed on Sunday?)

Anonymous said...

Wind Farms
These are the ones that spring immediately to mind. I am sure that there are many more catastrophic failures by the council that can be added to the list.

Anonymous said...

Just to put the record straight I am an employee of the CnES, on as poor grade recently reduced to fund massive pay rises for the numerous Heads of Service and Directors that are created on a regular basis. They do nothing because when any thought is needed they spend huge sums of our money on consultants to do their work for them.

We plebs at the bottom end actually do do some work, unappreciated and with out any prospect of promotion or career development. Jobs when advertised are pre determined by the need of the candidate they have already chosen.

The problem is there are no alternative jobs to be had so in the main we put up and shut up.

The problem we have here now is our elected officials and the higher ranks of the 'public' servants think this is the Western Isles Government not Council. They really believe in them selves to the point that they cannot understand why the Scottish Government does not knuckle down to their command.

They actually expect the Government to turn over a decision from HSE! Sorry but H&S along with PC govern our lives.

The sad thing is that when the next election comes the same people will stand along with well meaning new blood but the old guard will return "I know him/her so they get my vote" - The Hebridean Way. And then 4 more years of mis management and ineptitude. Worse still the continued moaning like now by the same people that put them there.

I hope nobody moaning on this blog or having a dig at us under trodden council staff voted for any of them - if so SHUT UP.

Anonymous said...

The world has gone HSE mad, that we already know. You could call it ‘cover your arse mad’ but that’s the way it is.
If the gas works were to explode into flames in a hurry and it does pose a risk, then that needs to be recognised and addressed.
Let’s look at the facts. Currently in the blast zone we have the existing school, the islands biggest employer (CNES, maybe a good thing??), reasonably densely populated residential streets and a busy industrial area. So building a new school 30 odd meters from the existing one is not changing anything. The same people / kids / homes / businesses are at the same risk. However the risk needs to be assessed and addressed.

The gas works may have been upgraded a few years ago, the council may have made a botch of using that opportunity to get it moved somewhere safer but what is done is done.

As #2 pier nears the end of it’s life something will have to be done.
These gas works need to move now, be it Holm or Arnish. The Islands economy and the construction industry could do with another major project since we don’t have any windfarms to put up.

So lets build the new school where it is proposed, issue the tender in the autumn and get on with it. It is a fantastic location right next to fantastic sporting facilities.

The government / council / HSE needs to agree to address the real issue and not just scupper plans and render a large proportion of the town area to a development void.

If the gas works did move and number 2 pier was no longer required would that, coupled with a little bit of infill, also be a solution to the town’s car parking problems?

Dr Evadne said...

Whoever you are 10.11am, I could have written this myself as an ex-Kremlin employee...and I couldn't have written it any better. I second this with nobs on...the more nobs the better.

Anonymous said...

I think its worth asking why did the council not elect to move the gas supply to Arnish in the past, was it too expensive an undertaking for them? I would have thought the Gas Board would have been keen on that one so they could increase supplies. As 11.01 says, it needs to be recognised and addressed, but, this is not something that is going to be resolved quickly and without very large sums of money. There are two seperate problems to deal with. The ideal is to move the fuel to a less risky location which is in everyones interest, but until that is done, the risk to school kids is being increased by building closer to the blast zone than it is currently. In light of the valid HSE concern, is it not more sensible to reconsider a new school and council location on the outskirts of town where most of the kids come from anyway, and leave the existing land for future housing, once the gas plant is relocated. It might seem logical to build close to the sports facilities, but they need to take into account the bigger risk which has already been identified. If the main reason to opt for the proposed location is proximity to the sports faciliies, then you can't argue too much on the necessity of having the school close to the sports facilities because it is meant to be for the community, not just the schools, and the fact that these facilities already exist then we have to just accept that with the current risk as it stands. By the time this will all be decided, the coming cuts in public sector services will mean we will probably not need such a large building as the White House which could be converted into a care home! Just think of the cost savings in health care and how healthy the residents would be so close to the running track.

Anonymous said...

There was a plan on the cards to shift the gas plant a few years ago, but no-one was prepared to pay for it. Despite clear warnings from the planning and Emergency Planning staff, the whole area (especially post Buncefield) is a sterile zone for development.

The paid staff at the top think they are bombproof. Forget the councillors - they are mostly irrelevant and wield no power apart from on Sunday issues.

The sad fact is that the top staff in the Comhairle are mostly people who couldn't get jobs in big councils on the mainland. Any time anyone half-competent gets appointed they are hounded out and villified unless they join the cabal. And the cabal's entire intention is to preserve their own power - not to make any kind of progress. Hence the complete, incompetent lack of action and the inability to foresee problems like this.

I'll eat my own arse if this lot manage to build a single school before 2020.