Published: 06:00, 25 January 2020
| Updated: 11:04, 25 January 2020
Safety fears about plans for a hydrogen fuel plant in Herne Bay have been dismissed as "scaremongering in the extreme".
Dozens of objections have flooded in from residents - with one even worried the town could be exposed to a Fukushima-style disaster.
But the developer insists the facility, which could be built by the end of next year, will comply with the "highest levels" of safety.
Ryse Hydrogen Ltd has submitted proposals to Canterbury City Council to construct the plant on a three-acre plot in Westbrook Lane.
Greenhill councillor Dan Watkins, a supporter of the plans, said: "The planning application is going to be subject to a rigorous safety evaluation by the officers of the council, so we will make sure what's being proposed is suitable for that vicinity.
"I understand that it's no more dangerous than a petrol station.
"I would say fears it could lead to a nuclear disaster are extreme and completely unrealistic - it's scaremongering in the extreme."
But the scheme is facing opposition from some residents.
Fliers have been put through the doors of homes in the area suggesting residents oppose the application for safety and traffic reasons.
It also notes the proposed development will be situated near to Hampton Primary School and asks if it could reduce property prices in the area.
Writing on the city council's planning website, opponent Neil Wallace notes: "This will only damage Herne Bay with limited benefit for the residents of Herne Bay and Whitstable.
"This application is also on a flood plain, what are the safety devices or do we face a Japanese-style Fukushima disaster?"
Following a major earthquake in Japan in 2011, a 15-metre tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling of three Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors.
"I understand that it's no more dangerous than a petrol station"
More than 100,000 people were evacuated from their homes amid radiation fears.
Labelling the plant dangerous, objector Sarah Phillips writes: "I would not feel safe bringing my family up so close to such a facility.
"Upon speaking to other residents this application is thought of very negatively and therefore [...] I strongly oppose this application and urge the local council to strongly consider the implications this may have on our community."
Ryse says its equipment will be sourced from NEL Hydrogen, a Norwegian-based company that has been working in the industry for almost 100 years.
A spokesman for the firm added: "We are committed to the health and safety of the residents of Herne Bay and will ensure the facility is built in accordance with the highest levels of safety, complying to the same codes and equivalent high standards that are met in the oil and gas industry.
"The safe production of hydrogen has been around since 1927 with very few reported incidents.
"The production process is continuously monitored by an automated system with a manual presence to ensure the plant is supported 24/7, 365 days a year.
"A governing body also oversees the worldwide hydrogen plant operations to ensure any incidents, however minor, are fully investigated and, where necessary, operational changes are recommended to ensure the highest safety standards are constantly maintained."
In planning documents, Ryse says the process, called hydrogen electrolysis, is the "cleanest method of hydrogen production" and will use electricity from the Kentish Flats Offshore Wind Farm.
The firm wants the fuel made at the factory to power London buses, before eventually supplying public transport providers in Kent.
The site, which neighbours the household waste recycling centre, was an isolation hospital in the early 1900s and was most recently home to Herne Bay BMX Park.
Ryse says it had considered six locations across the town - four neighbouring the A2990 Thanet Way and two in Thornden Wood Road - before deciding to move into the vacant plot.
"I would not feel safe bringing my family up so close to such a facility"
The firm is expecting to begin work on the site in August, ahead of a late-2021 opening.
A spokesman told KentOnline: “Subject to planning permission being granted, Ryse will be seeking to begin work on site in August with a fully operational state-of-the-art hydrogen facility open in late 2021.”
Councillors voted in September to approve proposals for the local authority to lease the site to Ryse for 35 years.
The company says the facility will create up to 12 jobs, which could be made available to locals.