A brewery in East Lancashire is set to shed the 11,000 tonnes of carbon emissions it generates each year after councillors gave the go-ahead for a hydrogen production facility to power its operation.

The development – subject to there being no objection from the government – will be constructed on greenbelt land next to the InBev brewery in Samlesbury, where beers including Budweiser, Stella Artois and Corona are produced.

Borough planners in South Ribble approved the decarbonisation proposal, but one member said he was “flabbergasted” his colleagues did not share safety concerns he had over a gas pipeline that runs through the site.

Cllr Peter Mullineaux, who represents the Samlesbury ward in which the hydrogen plant will be built, said:  “If there was an explosion, it’d be catastrophic.”

Locals also questioned the extent to which the technology underpinning the plans was proven, however the firm behind the plans insisted it was both safe and would bring huge benefits to the borough.

The applicant, Samlesbury Net Zero Ltd, will build and operate the hydrogen facility independently of the brewery.

But the drinks producer will be sole user of the power created. Its vehicles will also, in future, be fuelled by hydrogen produced there.

Application agent Dominic Page said its Welsh test site – using “similar technology” to that proposed – had “demonstrated hydrogen can be captured safely and efficiently for commercial use”.

He told councillors residents and nearby wildlife sites would benefit from improved air quality as 11,000 tonnes of carbon emissions will be removed from the brewery's processes every year.

But one neighbour, John Greaves – an electrochemist by trade – claimed the way in which the plans had been presented at a public consultation event was “a load of rubbish”.

He claimed the process proposed for Samlesbury was “only a prototype”.

Cllr Jasmine Gleave – another Samlesbury ward member, added: "Even renewable energy projects located in the greenbelt must demonstrate very special circumstances [in order to be approved] – and I don’t believe these have been demonstrated here."

Cllr Mullineaux added: "[Given] this pipeline that runs across [the site], it just seems a bit weird to me that everybody seems to be saying, ‘Oh, it’s fine, it won’t be a problem'. I just can’t accept that this is safe. “

Planning officer Debbie Roberts said separate safety permits would have to be obtained by the applicant and the Health and Safety Executive and gas firm Cadent had not objected.

Cadent had sought agreement on the hydrogen works before it went ahead and a monitoring condition is possible.

Borough climate change Cllr Keith Martin, said it was “a fantastic opportunity to reduce the carbon footprint” of the brewery and the borough, which declared a climate emergency in 2019.

He suggested creating a “stakeholders’ forum” for councillors and residents “to ensure that their safety is assured and their input is valued and taken into account”.

A proposal by Cllr Mullineaux to refuse the application was defeated before the plans were approved.

Under national planning regulations when a council approves an application for major development that would have “a significant impact on the openness of the greenbelt”  the Communities Secretary is notified, triggering a 21-day 'call-in' period for potential further consideration.