SCOTLAND’S biggest music festival may have to move to a new site due to long-standing health and safety fears over a fuel pipeline running below its current home.
T in the Park’s organisers are looking for an alternative base for the event following repeated protests over the use of Balado Park, in Kinross-shire, due to the risk of thousands being killed by an explosion.
They have told council chiefs, who grant an annual licence for the event, that they are seeking to use the existing site for only one more year.
The possibility of a relocation emerged just days before the launch of this year’s event, which is celebrating its 20th birthday. It was originally staged at Strathclyde Country Park, in Hamilton, and has been at Balado since 1997.
Although the Glasgow-based firm behind the three-day festival does not want to quit its site Balado, which has a capacity of 85,000 a day, bosses are worried they will have growing problems gaining permission for the event.
There are also concerns the growing need for safety restrictions will hamper the planning and running of the event, and threaten any expansion plans.
The Scotsman understands a number of other sites are being considered.
Key criteria include easy access to the motorway network and close proximity to both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Sites in the Highlands are believed to be impractical.
Concerns have been raised by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) about the use of the current site because of the BP pipeline – designated a “major hazard” – which carries crude oil between the North Sea and the petrochemical complex at Grangemouth in Stirlingshire.
T in the Park insists it has reconfigured the site in recent years to take into account the concerns of the HSE but it faces a major revamp next year to overcome the problem.
An insider said: “Everything possible is being done to stay on the existing site, but that may not be in the best interests of the festival. It all depends on how the site can be reconfigured.
“Nothing has been decided yet, but it has to be a sustainable solution for the festival.
“We may be looking to expand in future years. There are other options out there already, but a central Scotland location is crucial.
“We’ve always been very happy in Kinross. We have strong relationships with our planning team, including the council and emergency services, so we’d absolutely like to keep that team intact.”
This year’s event does not yet have a licence and council chiefs are being asked to first approve a planning application for a temporary change of use of the site to accommodate the huge infrastructure needed for the event, which takes weeks to set up and dismantle.
The HSE says it will agree to this for one more year, following talks with the organisers and Perth and Kinross Council, despite the prospect of some 13,000 people being in official danger zones around the pipeline during the festival.
A report for the local authority said “reassurances have been given at pre-application stage by all parties that events on this site will cease after 2014 and that this is the final year being sought on site.”
The report, which will be discussed by councillors next week, adds: “It has been made clear by the applicant that they are seeking an alternative site outwith the pipeline consultation zones.
“The HSE’s position is that because of the proximity to the pipeline, this site is not suitable as a location for an event of this nature and scale.
“A temporary consent for a single year offers a pragmatic response and a suitable time-frame within which the logistics of completing and
securing and readying any necessary consents for another site.”
A spokesman for the HSE said: “We broadly support the principle of a temporary planning consent for 2014 alone, to complete relocation of the event beyond HSE’s consultation zones around the BP Forties pipeline.
“This should enable Perth & Kinross Council to make an informed decision about risks to the public when determining permission.
“HSE has consistently advised Perth & Kinross Council against granting planning permission because in our view the public safety risks it presents mean the site is not suitable for an event of this scale and nature.
“With large numbers of people in close proximity to a major hazard pipeline, our view is that the proposed development raises safety issues of substantial concern.”
A spokeswoman for T in the Park promoter DF Concerts said: “Throughout the years, T in the Park has gone through a meticulous system of planning and safety checks, which we have always passed – including this year.
“Nothing has changed in the last few years except HSE protocol – the pipeline remains in the same position as always, which means that it also continues to run underneath schools and Aberdeen Airport’s runway.
Over the last couple of years we have complied with the change in HSE protocol by reorienting parts of the site to move away from the exclusion zone.
“Everyone from the Scottish Government to the HSE have approved of this and we will continue to shift the site as required and dependent on our needs.
“Regardless of these changes and any changes that may be made in the future, T in the Park will remain a brilliant, well-organised event for all of Scotland and beyond.”