Ellesmere Port and Neston MP Justin Madders wants an independent inquiry to examine the circumstances leading to planning permission being refused for the University of Chester ’s campus next to Stanlow oil refinery.
Last week the council planning committee rejected a retrospective application to allow the learning centre to continue after the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) raised concerns about the risks to students.
The university, which has been running the science and engineering department at its Thornton Science Park since 2014, has announced its intention to appeal.
Mr Madders is perplexed at how the situation has arisen.
Councillors voted by seven votes to four to prevent the facility changing its designation from an industrial to an educational site.
This was down to advice from the HSE who felt students would be in danger if there was a toxic gas release or explosion from the refinery next door.
But there will be widespread repercussions not only for students but also technology companies who chose to locate at the science park because of the close working relationship with the university.
The world class facility, which was gifted by Shell with an estimated value of £120m, is part of the Cheshire Science Corridor and the government’s Northern Powerhouse vision.
Exasperated university vice chancellor Professor Tim Wheeler has claimed senior council officers previously offered reassurances over the planning status of the science and engineering faculty.
Mr Madders MP responded: “I’m absolutely astonished that we have reached a point where the university is being asked to potentially dismantle a £120m facility because of something as fundamental as planning permission.
“Most of us wouldn’t consider putting up a conservatory without first checking whether we needed planning consent but it is obvious somewhere along the line the university felt it had the assurances needed to proceed. I am appalled that vast sums of public money have been expended on a site which it is now claimed is unsuitable for the purpose of education.
“It’s time that someone completely independent looked at how this fiasco arose and who is responsible for the ludicrous situation we are now in. If we can establish exactly what has happened then we can hopefully make sure we are never in this situation again and people will be able to invest with confidence and certainty.
“I will be writing to both the university and the council in these terms and also urging them in the meantime to sit down face to face with the HSE to try and find a resolution so that students can continue their courses.”