Brexit funding could be used to improve council’s Westhampnett depot

Westhampnett depot (photo from Google Maps Street View)
Westhampnett depot (photo from Google Maps Street View)

Chichester District Council is to consider using government Brexit funding to pay for a fuel storage facility at its Westhampnett depot.

It was one of several improvements at the Stane Street depot which needed funding and were discussed by members of the cabinet.

If approved, resurfacing and drainage would put the biggest dent in the council’s coffers, with the cabinet recommending £392,000 of reserves and £200,000 from the Asset Replacement Programme be used to pay for the work.

Just shy of £200,000 from reserves was recommended to pay for a vehicle wash-down for the council’s 68-strong fleet.

There had been plans to ask for another £31,000 from reserves to pay for the fuel storage but officer John Ward pointed out a different option.

Mr Ward said: “The government did issue local authorities with some funding towards Brexit contingency costs for emergency planning purposes.

“At the time the funding was announced, which was just under £35,000, it was felt this fuel tank may have been a suitable use of that funding because it would improve resilience at the depot.

“However, obviously Brexit was scheduled to happen in March and we didn’t think the timing was ideal, hence that source of funding wasn’t identified initially.

“With Brexit now being delayed to October, potentially that is a source of funding rather than using general fund reserves, so we could use the government grant for that purpose.”

The site already has one underground fuel tank, which holds 6,800 litres, which could provide emergency fuel for the various service and refuse vehicles for one week.

The new tank will be above ground and will hold 30,000 litres, saving the council around  £12,125 per year in fuel costs.

Leader Eileen Lintill asked for reassurances about the safety of the tank, adding: “There have been a couple of incidents – not on our site but quite close by recently – and I’d hate the third one to be our fuel tank going up.”

She was told that, not only was diesel less volatile than petrol, but no one would be able to get to the tank because it would be enclosed in a steel container.

Sarah Sharp (Green, Chichester South) asked members if the plans could be more environmentally friendly.

Mrs Sharp pointed out that Greenwich and Sheffield had started using electric-powered refuse collection vehicles, with other authorities also looking at alternative options.

She said: “Investing in a bunded fuel tank to store diesel may save money short-term but it locks old technology into place just when we know the future will be different.

“And it completely fails in our responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Penny Plant, cabinet member for environment and Chichester Contract Services, told the meeting that, with almost two-thirds of the waste collection fleet due to be replaced in the next few years, the option of using electric or alternative fuel vehicles would be considered.

She added: “Having supported the purchase of some new electric vehicles, Chichester contract services are already looking at installing electric charging points to support the service and repair of these vehicles.

“As part of the resurfacing project, consideration will also be given to installing some of the charging infrastructure that will be required to support the recharging of larger electrical vehicles in the future.”

The cabinet’s recommendations, including some environmental improvements, will be considered by the full council.