A NATIONAL fuel company will be joining CECAMM at the Island Technology Park in Whippingham, using the land as an oil depot.

The decision was made by the Isle of Wight Council's planning committee today (Monday) despite safety concerns from nearby Priory School.

Three 125,000-litre, internally bunded, fuel tanks will now be installed on the Whippingham site, as well as an office building, switch room and external lighting.

Certas Energy previously used space on the yard of Isle of Wight Fuels, further into East Cowes, but, following the closure of the Island-based company, needed to find a more permanent home.

The new site for the energy company will have a loading operation, supplying road diesel, red diesel, kerosene, and industrial and home heating oil for Island homes and businesses.

Concerns, however, were raised at the planning committee meeting by Martha James, on behalf of the Priory School, which is 230 metres away.

Mrs James said the school recognised the short-term need for oil distribution on the Island but this should not override sound planning considerations including the safety of residents and students, the impact on the environment and the long-term risk of the viability of the technology park.

She said: "Fuel depot explosions might be rare but when they do occur they are catastrophic.

"None of the officers' conditions proposed would result in a scheme that in the future is safe for residents, students and school pupils."

Mrs James also argued there would be a loss of employment opportunities at the site, with only three jobs being proposed for the oil depot, with a bigger project hiring more people.

Cllr Matthew Price, ward representative for Whippingham and Fairlee, argued in favour of the development and said he considered long and hard the fact the site may pose a risk to education facilities but was confident the oil depot would not only adhere to all the local rules and policies but be bound by legislation and will probably have to meet far more stringent requirements than other industrial sites around the Island.

He said: "Any suggestion the site is not necessary is clearly false as thousands of residents, who are not connected to the gas network, rely on this fuel to keep their houses warm in the winter.

"I would say no councillor wants this in their ward, least of all me, but if I was asked if we needed an oil-storage depot, the answer would be yes."

Cllr Price did ask, however, for the soft landscaping condition for the site to be increased, suggesting semi-mature trees around the site, which would enhance the area and hide it further.

Planning officers said they could ask for additional landscaping around the site but on the wider technology park, new planting has been done on the rear boundary of the park which would mature.

Members of the planning committee voted in favour of the applicant, with six votes for and none against.

A spokesperson for Certas said they were delighted with the decision.

They said: “There has been some uncertainty since the closure of the Isle of Wight Fuels terminal, but we have done everything possible in that time to help maintain fuel supply to the island.

"Our new advanced fuel depot will keep homes warm through winter and agricultural customers in fuel for many, many years to come, building on a heritage that dates back more than half a century."