Former construction minister Nick Raynsford has condemned the Health and Safety Executive’s blast-zone policy after it scuppered a £300m residential development in south London
The plan to build a 42-storey tower and a 32-storey tower on the site of a former brewery has been rejected by Eric Pickles, the communities secretary.
In his report, Pickles said the scheme for developer Minerva would be too difficult to evacuate if a nearby gasholder caught fire.
Welcoming the decision, Gordon MacDonald, the HSE’s director of hazardous installations, said: “The proposed development site, which would have included 829 residential units, is very close to the Wandsworth gasholder station. In the event of a major accident, it would have been difficult to evacuate people rapidly from the upper levels of the proposed tower blocks.”
But Raynsford, the MP for Greenwich and Woolwich, has criticised the HSE’s policy over gasholders. The Minerva site is not in his constituency, but a school that had been planned for Greenwich was recently blocked by the same policy.
Raynsford said: “After the  fire at the Buncefield fuel depot, the HSE looked at the blast-zones arrangement and decided to extend them. It was a blanket response, which might have been appropriate at Buncefield, but not for these gasholders - the last fatality caused by a gasholder was in the 19th century.
“If they really felt there was a risk they would take action to move existing buildings, but they won’t. And it’s the local people who suffer as this is sterilising development.
“The school we had planned for Greenwich may never be built now. It is a problem.”
The Minerva scheme had been given the go-ahead by Wandsworth council, but was called in by the previous government. The council described Pickles’ decision as “very disappointing”. It is now studying the decision in detail.
Minerva said it was committed to the site and a spokesperson for Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, said a judicial review might be announced in the next few weeks.