Some time back- 26th July 2018, The Belgian Solvay , (former French company Rhodia, former American owned, former British company Albright and Wilson), put in a rather clandestine Hazardous substance consent to Sandwell council.
Sandwell themselves were rather secretive about this, with the documents associated with this application slow to be put up on their planning website. Similarly ever since there have been no updates whatsoever as to if the application had been approved or what exactly had happened with its “registered” determination.
Not one to rest on my laurels and as an objector to the scheme, I emailed the case officer listed on the website- one Dean Leadon, who failed to get back to me. After having made a complaint to Sandwell council about this, they now inform me that he left the authority in December of last year ,(I have since found out from enquiries that he has in fact joined a private planning advice consultancy 🙄 ), but without anything to state this on their website.
In the interim, I put in two FOI requests to the two main statutory consultees involved with the regulation of this Top Tier COMAH site.
Firstly the HSE- who if you recall took nearly a decade to conduct a prosecution into this company for one of the very same chemicals that they are applying to increase the pressure of at the site- namely phosphine.
“As a statutory consultee and competent authority for this Top Tier COMAH site, please provide all comments/correspondence with Sandwell council including emails and attachments in respect of this hazardous substance application consent which deals with modification to pressure of Phosphine used, and proposed storage and use of Hexene, Hydrogen Peroxide and Cyanex 923 on site.”
They replied stating that they had made only initial comment on the application, but very little else.
These were Email dated 17/8/2018 from Sandwell Council to HSE containing revised Application form, and their response Email dated 21 August 2018 to Sandwell Council with HSE attachment Holding Letter.
The only information of note here is that the HSE stated that it would take them 26 weeks (i.e 6 months) to consider the application.
The Environment Agency response is even more useless.
“Hexene, Hydrogen Peroxide and Cyanex 923 The new chemicals are for use in a new chemical manufacturing process being installed by the Solvay Company. The technical details of the process are being assessed by the Environment Agency and HSE (Health and Safety Executive).
Having checked our records, the Environment Agency have had no communication with Sandwell District Council, over the permit application.”
It therefore seems that both of these organisations are keeping their cards pretty close to their chests- but let’s hope when they do finally respond to SMBC that they don’t give this prosecuted industrial polluter the usual free reign to do as they please. It’s been going on in Oldbury ever since the days of “The Oldbury smell”– it’s just the wind direction that masks the air pollution.
For the benefit of local residents, and the HSE and EA, I have set out the production of phosphine at Trinity street at the two plants. Number 1 plant- source of the 2009 fire. Number 2 plant- modelled on the same earlier plant. I do hope it’s useful.