PLANNERS feared a Beirut-style blast at a Sussex port where the same fertiliser was stored, documents show.

Shoreham Port Authority had applied to keep ammonium nitrate in a storage shed on site.

The explosion in the Lebanese capital left hundreds dead, thousands injured, and 300,000 homeless this week.

And the authorities here in Sussex raised their concerns in 2006 and 2010 about the hazards of storing the chemical at Shoreham.

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The fire service said it would have to evacuate a large residential area over a “potential explosive situation” which could have caused a large gas cloud.

In 2006 the Port Authority was granted planning permission to handle up to 2,800 tonnes of the chemical.

It was to be held at transit shed eight in Basin Road South and was 300 tonnes more than the amount which had allegedly been stored in Beirut in a warehouse for up to six years.

The Argus:

But the authority says “no chemicals” are currently being stored at the Shoreham site.

In 2010 Adur District Council’s planning services manager Keith Morgan wrote to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) about whether permission needed to be revoked.

Curbs were put in place to state that only 1,000 tonnes could be handled at the site between June and August, and the fertiliser could only be left on site for no more than two weeks.

Mr Morgan wrote: “The applicant accepted the conditions so the consent was granted with the restrictions in the belief that the risk to the local population was not significant.

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“It now appears that, despite the advice from the HSE in 2006, the hazardous substances consent should not have been granted because of the degree of risk to part of the nearby residential area within which the Pilot public house site is located.”

In 2006 the BBC reported that while West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service did not object, the service said if there was a fire it would be treated as a “potential explosive situation”.

“Crews would not operate within a 400m cordon and there would be a likely gas cloud which would require the evacuation of a large residential area and closure of the A259 and railway,” it was reported.

The Argus:

Shoreham Port was contacted for comment and to address any fears of residents about a similar explosion.

Communications manager Emily Kenneally said: “We do not store any chemicals at Shoreham Port and our cargoes mainly consist of timber, steel and aggregates.”

Adur District Council advised The Argus to contact the Health and Safety Executive.

The HSE said: “While our thoughts are with people in Beirut, especially those who have lost loved ones, operators in Britain are subject to some of the most stringent controls in the world.

“The storage of ammonium nitrate in Great Britain is subject to a robust regulatory framework, which considers the hazards posed by storage, product safety and measures to deal with emergencies.

“As with all industrial disasters around the world, we will take on board any significant findings from the investigation as and when they emerge.”