Chester students to be moved from ‘death risk’ campus near oil refinery

By Phil McCann
Cheshire Political Reporter, BBC News

Published
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionStanlow oil refinery is the second largest facility of its kind in the UK

The majority of students taught at a university campus near an oil refinery will be relocated after a report found the site put them at risk of death.

A public inquiry concluded in February that most teaching could no longer take place at Thornton Science Park, near Stanlow oil refinery in Cheshire.

The University of Chester has now lodged plans to move its science and engineering faculty to Chester.

The Thornton campus will continue to host research and commercial interests.

The site, which houses about 600 students, opened in 2014 and was redeveloped with a total of £28m of government grant funding.

The Health and Safety Executive told a public inquiry in 2019 that half of those students could be killed in the event of a "very large scale accident" at the refinery next door and others would face "serious harm".

The university said at the time that the campus in Ellesmere Port was a "safe environment".

The inquiry was carried out because the university failed to obtain retrospective planning permission to change the use of site, which was formerly a research centre for oil and gas company Shell.

The university claimed "reassurances" had been given that planning permission would not be needed, but the inquiry upheld Cheshire West and Chester Council's decision that the site could not be used as the institution's faculty of science and engineering.

image captionThe university opened its faculty on the site in 2014

The university has now lodged a planning application to move the faculty to its Parkgate Road campus in Chester.

In a statement with the planning application, it said its decision to move the faculty would "continue to contribute to exceptional teaching and learning, the overall student experience, and to the development and improvement of society".

Thornton Science Park will continue to be used by the university for research and commercial tenants at the site will be able to stay.

Labour's Justin Madders, the MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston, said he hoped to "see a continued commitment to the Thornton Research Centre in some form moving forwards as it is beginning to show that it has a big part to play in making this part of the world a real centre of excellence in new renewable technologies".

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