Approved plans for a new church in south Reading are now set to be rejected after a government agency warned that the site’s new occupants would be at risk of death.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has repeatedly advised against the application at 448a Basingstoke Road, Whitley, due to the site’s proximity to flammable materials at the neighbouring Gillette UK headquarters.

Stuart Reston, HSE’s principal specialist inspector, said: “Should a major accident occur, the fire and/or explosion would most likely lead to occupants of the proposed Reading Family Church being killed."

HSE was forced to intervene over safety fears after Reading Family Church’s application to convert warehouse and office space into a church was approved by Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) planning committee on September 5, against the agency’s advice.

Unconvinced that planning committee members “fully understood the seriousness of HSE’s advice” and the risks from a major accident at the neighbouring site, HSE reiterated their concerns and advised officers to bring the application back to committee.

After the application was re-submitted for consideration at the upcoming planning committee, HSE stated that they would call in the case to the Secretary of State if the committee approved the application again.

HSE will attend the meeting, on December 5, to state their concerns.

Mr Reston said: “This is an exceptional course of action for HSE. It is extremely rare for HSE to attend planning committees to explain our advice.”

The agency has only requested calling in applications on seven occasions in the last 35 years, out of around 105,000 planning applications consulted on in that time across Great Britain.

The Gillette site is subject to the Controls of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015 due to its five large LPG tanks, a road tanker off-loading area, a bulk ethanol tank, and finished aerosol products.

The proposed development is wholly within the HSE’s most hazardous ‘inner zone’; anyone in the 448a Basingstoke Road building would be killed in the event of a worst-case scenario fire and subsequent thermal radiation.

Officers have recommended that the committee refuse planning permission based on the HSE’s advice.

Prior to September’s planning committee, Gillette owners Procter & Gamble, raised concerns but agreed that controls to external activities at the church site would deal with the concerns.

The application had been supported by Reading West MP Alok Sharma and RBC councillors John Ennis, Sophia James, and Emmett McKenna.

The HSE is the government’s independent body for public safety advice on proposed developments in the vicinity of major accident hazards.

Its aim is to keep inappropriate developments away from major hazard sites and major accident hazard pipelines to reduce the risk or consequences of a major accident.

Mr Reston suggested the agency would likely not advise against a lowly populated manufacturing workplace that already puts its workers at risks from its general work activity.