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Fire disaster fears after petrol station cleared for housing block return

Neighbours warn: 'Anyone with an RPG could blow station up in seconds'

13 October, 2017 — By Richard Osley

The former Total petrol station in Marylebone Road 

PEOPLE living in a Grade II-listed block of flats in Marylebone say they fear a fire disaster after a petrol station was cleared to trade below their homes.

Residents in the prestigious Dorset House flats, in Gloucester Place off the Marylebone Road, have told the council they are worried about how they would escape a blaze if there was an explosion at the garage.

Others say they will be victims of choking pollution as more cars are drawn to the area, as the number of petrol stations elsewhere diminishes.

The concerns were revealed as councillors approved an alcohol licence for the forecourt shop earlier this month.

“In a time of increased terrorist risk in Europe, this petrol station is an easy target,” said one letter of objection.

“Anyone with an RPG could blow the station up in seconds. There are not so many petrol station in

central London, having one there would increase the traffic from people who are refuelling. This increase of traffic is natu- rally going to increase levels of pollution in an area which is already above any acceptable lev- els.” RPG stands for rock- et propelled grenade.

The objections to the garage sent to Westmin- ster have been published for public view as part of the licensing process but anonymised.

Several reminded officials of a fire in car park of the basement in 2012 which led to an evacuation of residents.

The London Fire Brigade responded to reports of a fireball rip- ping out of a burning car.

Another objection added: “We find it quite extraordinary that the council is allowing this to proceed, putting lives of the Dorset House residents at risk, despite the backdrop of the Grenfell Tower fire and a previous fire in the Dorset House parking.”

A Total petrol station has operated on the site before but closed down four years ago and the site was wrapped in a hoard- ing, with the pumps still there, until new operators came forward. Across London the number of garages selling fuel has decreased year on year.

The protests also raise concerns about the areas being “besieged” by street drinkers who would find a new place to buy alcohol at the shop, and made pleas for cleaner air.

“Marylebone Road is the most polluted road in the world – beating even Beijing,” said another resident. “Having a petrol station here will add to the horrendous air pollution we already experience.”

Flats can change hands at the art deco block for more than £1million. Legendary movie maker Martin Scorsese visited the block in 2014 as a heritage blue plaque was unveiled to film-makers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, who had an office there in the 1940s.

A council spokesman said: “Westminster Council has granted this premises an alcohol licence as it met the committee’s requirements. Even without the granting of this alcohol licence this premises can sell petrol and grocery items as it has been able to do for many years.”

Agents for the landowners gained full planning permission to bring back the petrol station earlier this year with an application that pledged to bring back life to an unused site.

“The petrol filling station was regularly abused by trespassers and subject to anti-social behaviour, squatting, drug abuse, begging, noise and disturbance. Drug paraphernalia, urine, excrement, fly- tipping and rubbish were common place,” their paperwork said.

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