A church has abandoned plans for a permanent home in south Reading over safety fears.

A government agency’s warnings of a risk of death to worshippers at 448a Basingstoke Road, Whitley, were dismissed by councillors last year.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) called the decision in to the Secretary of State, who then requested a planning inquiry.

Reading Family Church has now withdrawn the application after its planning consultant advised that the legislation is “very robust” and they cannot prove it is safe.

Sean Green, senior pastor at Reading Family Church, said: “HSE expressed very strong concerns. Nothing they presented made us feel very different.

“Our planning consultant did a lot more specialist research.

“The advice was the legislation changed in 2015 and is very robust.

“The site is safe but we cannot prove it. We were advised we will lose a public inquiry. We cannot afford to go to the inquiry and lose.”

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Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) planning committee approved the application at 448a Basingstoke Road for a second time in December 2018, unconvinced that there would be an increased risk compared to the current use.

HSE raised concerns about a potential boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion at the neighbouring Gillette UK headquarters.

The government agency feared vulnerable worshippers could die in the event of an explosion at the nearby P&G Gillette Factory.

But councillor and scientist Emmett McKenna, said the chance of such as explosion was minimal –  one in 20,000 years – at the December 2018 meeting.

The public inquiry was scheduled for December 2019 but has been cancelled after Reading Family Church withdrew the application.

Neighbouring site Gillette is subject to the Controls of Major Accident Hazards Regulations 2015, largely due to its five large LPG tanks.

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

The application was only the eighth development to be called in by the HSE in the last 35 years, out of around 105,000 planning applications.

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Reading Family Church will continue to look for a new home.

Mr Green said: “We are a large fellowship. We have a real appetite to meet the needs. Our vision hasn’t changed.

“We need facilities. We need home for our church and a home to serve our community.”

Reading Family Church currently holds three meetings on Sundays.

A 9am and 11am service take place at Reading Girls School in Northumberland Avenue, and an evening service takes place at South Street Arts Centre.