Occupants of a planned Sikh temple may be unable to evacuate in time if there is an accident at a nearby Northampton fuel depot, according to the Health and Safety Executive.
The concerns have been raised as councillors prepare to rule on whether the Sikh community can convert a former Cosworth office building in St James Mill Road into a place of worship.
A report by a planning officer says the HSE are not yet satisfied that occupying the building would be risk-free because of the nearby BP-owned facility.
He said: “It is understood that the crux of these objections is that, if there were to be an incident at the fuel storage depot, there may not be sufficient time to allow for the proposed development to be evacuated.
“Large events could attract visitors who are not familiar with the buildings, its surroundings and the evacuation plan.”
Yet the planning department has recommended the conversion - which would included classrooms, a computer room, a library and meeting rooms and could allow weddings - goes ahead.
The officer states that, while the community centre would be open every day, for the majority of the day there would be limited numbers of people on site. He also points out that the occasions when the facility is likely to have significant numbers of visitors, such as weddings, would be “very limited”.
He adds: “The fuel storage tanks are large, but the site as a whole is not as significant as, for example, a busy oil refinery, and therefore the potential risk is not of a major scale.”
If councillors agree to the change of use, the HSE could ask for the matter to be decided by the Secretary of State.