Ineos has sparked a row by calling for part of the main route that links Grangemouth with Bo’ness to be closed permanently.
A 150 metre stretch of the A904 Bo’ness Road between the roundabouts at Inchyra Road and Wholeflats Road was shut last March to allow work to be carried out on a pipebridge ahead of Europe’s biggest ethane storage tank being built on the site.
The project was a key part of a £450 million investment to get the company ready to import the gas from the United States.
A Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) granted by Falkirk Council to allow materials to be delivered safely expired on March 31 and the road which runs through the middle of the sprawling petrochemicals complex has now re-opened to traffic.
But the move has been criticised by Ineos bosses who have complained to the council it “defies common sense” - and raises safety concerns.
John McNally, chief executive officer of Ineos 0&P UK, said: “This is the only major site within Ineos Group with a public highway running through it.
“It is clearly not best practice and opens up long term concerns on continuing to secure the safety of the public traversing a site which is about to begin importing and storing huge quantities of US shale gas and will run at full capacity for the first time in almost a decade.”
Ineos say re-opening that part of Bo’ness Road is unnecessary because there is a “perfectly good” alternative route that runs around the edge of the site.
Mr McNally added: “We have had a number of discussions with Falkirk Council about the Bo’ness Road and advised them against re-opening it.
“Having a public thoroughfare running through a massive petrochemicals plant results in obvious and unnecessary added safety concerns which we have to manage. Our employees and contractors have all been fully trained to respond to any issues that might arise on the site, but the general public have not.
“While we understand the local authority’s need to keep public roads open, we feel very strongly that in this case the public interest would be better served were the road to remain closed. Safety is always our top priority and it is clearly an added burden to continue to protect the safety of the public who are untrained in our processes and have unfettered access to the middle of a chemical plant, particularly one that is undergoing significant expansion.”
Yesterday (Wednesday) Rhona Geisler, the council’s director of development services, said: “Ineos applied for a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order to close this road while they carried out extensive works to upgrade the site. It expired on March 31 and the road has reopened as the work on site is complete.”
The concerns raised by Ineos sparked a storm on social media.
Carrie Aitken tweeted to The Falkirk Herald’s Facebook: “So it’s only a safety issue now? Why were they allowed to build such a ‘dangerous’ tank so close to the road? Because they are Ineos and they can do what the like. Time the people of Grangemouth and Bo’ness stood up against the bully boys.”
Donald Hope said: “The road is a public right of way. What are they going to do, shut the plant? Don’t make me laugh. They are at it again!”
Charlie Hamilton said: “This is no more than a multinational trying to flex its power over the locals.”
Nadine Kennedy said: “What a farce. They should never have been allowed to build the tank in the first place.”