VILLAGERS have declared war against a fuel company which has begun cutting down trees in a bid to extend a storage depot.
They fear danger from the storage of flammable fuel if Par Petroleum is given the go-ahead to build extra storage space on the former Lumley Sixth Pit at Woodstone Village, Fencehouses, Chester-le-Street.
A North East MP said he sympathises with the residents and urged them to object to the planning authority, Durham County Council.
Residents living on a housing estate opposite the depot on Lumley New Road say the trees were part of a wood which provided a screen between their homes and the depot.
Father-of-two Marc Hopkinson, 40, an NHS manager of Glamis Court, Woodstone Village, said: “Trees which form part of a green belt, and part of the Great North Forest, have already been chopped down.
“Par Petroleum have applied for planning permission to extend its storage depot but they have chopped down the trees before permission has been granted.”
Mr Hopkinson and his neighbours Andrew Lister and Ian Clift contacted Kevan Jones, the MP for North Durham, who said: “I can understand the residents’ anger. It is pre-emptive of the company to cut down trees before a planning application has been considered and I would urge residents to contact Durham County Council to voice their objections.”
Mr Hopkinson added: “The message we want to communicate is it is not appropriate to turn a well established green belt back into an industrial site, particularly as many people have bought houses in the area to enjoy open space.
“Nor does this type of operation have a place in a residential setting either as it poses too many risks, not only to the environment but to people living and working around the site as well.”
Mr Lister added: “The industrial estate where the depot is sited is supposed to be limited to light industry, and a fuel storage depot is not light industry. I am not opposed to a business growing but Par Petroleum has outgrown that site.”
Residents are holding a meeting in Fencehouses Community Centre to discuss the issue on Monday at 6.30pm. A Durham County Council planning committee is due to consider Par Petroleum’s application to extend the site later this year.
A spokeswoman for Par Petroleum Ltd, which they describe as “a small family business established in Woodstone Village over 20 years ago,” said: “Recent expansion has allowed us to provide stability for existing employees and generate new jobs during extremely difficult economic times.
“We appreciate the concerns of local residents over our current planning application and welcome their input. Along with our planning consultant we will be addressing all comments by cooperating fully with Durham County Council Planning Department.”