THE MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston is calling for an independent inquiry into the “fiasco” surrounding Thornton Science Park.

The University of Chester has been happily running classes and workshops from the site since 2014.

But it never sought planning permission to use the buildings for education and Cheshire West and Chester Council’s planning committee has now refused a retrospective application.

Its decision was made based on advice from the Government’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which said the operation poses too much of a risk to students due to its proximity to the Stanlow Oil Refinery.

The university claims it was advised by CWaC officers in 2014 – the year it bought the site from Shell - that it would not need to seek ‘change of use’ planning permission.

Bosses have vowed to appeal against the decision and now Justin Madders MP is demanding a review into how the “ludicrous” situation had arisen.

He said: “I’m absolutely astonished that we have reached a point where the university is being asked to potentially dismantle a £120 million facility because of something as fundamental as planning permission.

“Most of us wouldn’t consider putting up a conservatory without first checking whether we needed planning consent but it is obvious somewhere along the line the university felt it had the assurances needed to proceed.

“I am appalled that vast sums of public money have been expended on a site which it is now claimed is unsuitable for the purpose of education.”

The HSE advised the council that Stanlow Oil Refinery is classed as a “hazardous institution” and on that basis Thornton can only be used as a site for industry and employment, not education.

The science park, on Pool Lane, Ince, is home to both the university’s Faculty of Engineering and a number of science and technology-based companies.

Educational buildings are said to include lecture theatres, laboratories, workshops, conference rooms, a library and offices.

It was part of the wider Shell site before it was bought by the university in 2014 and the refinery was sold to Essar.

Critics say the university is guilty of a serious oversight by investing significant sums in the site before obtaining the relevant planning consent.

It has also been pointed out that HSE guidance on hazardous institutions has not changed during this time.

Mr Madders added: “It’s time that someone completely independent looked at how this fiasco arose and who is responsible for the ludicrous situation we are now in.

“If we can establish exactly what has happened then we can hopefully make sure we are never in this situation again and people will be able to invest with confidence and certainty.

“I will be writing to both the university and the council in these terms and also urging them in the meantime to sit down face to face with the HSE to try and find a resolution so that students can continue their courses.”