Buncefield to reopen

Oil company BP is sending out more than 5,000 leaflets to households in Hemel Hempstead as it prepares to reopen its part of the Buncefield depot.

BP will be restarting operations at the site with the storage and supply of plane fuel to Heathrow within months.

And the company expects to have petrol and diesel stored on the site for distribution by tanker to garage forecourts at the end of the year.

BP must comply with more than 50 safety conditions including refurbed tanks and improved alarm systems and the company says it has spent 10million on the work.

In the leaflet the company says it was an 'innocent victim' of the blast and it is understood to be claiming damages of around 40million from Hertfordshire Oil Storage Limited.

Chairman Peter Mather said: "We know that some residents and members of the business community are concerned about the safety issues surrounding the start-up of the site.

"We assure you that BP is taking steps to make sure the site and its operations are safe for our neighbours and for our staff working there."

The move comes despite strong resistance from residents and the business community, which has warned the storage of petrol will blight the industrial estate's recovery.

But BP has gone through all the official hoops to reopen its part of the depot - next door to where the disaster took place - and council chiefs admit they are powerless to stop it.

The development is likely to pave the way for other oil companies at the depot to restart operations.

An 'informal' meeting took place between BP and Dacorum Borough Council's cabinet on Tuesday night.

Council leader Andrew Williams said: "It would be much better for the community if it didn't return but it's beyond the council's power to stop it.

"The site has that permission and that can't be taken away.

"We would be delighted if that site didn't open but it would take an intervention at national government level to bring about such a change."

The 2005 disaster was caused when a tank full of petrol overflowed, forming a vapour cloud that then exploded.

This occurred on the part of the depot owned by Hertfordshire Oil Storage Limited, a joint venture between Total and Chevron.