Surrey's plans to redevelop The Oval in time for next summer's Ashes have been dealt a blow with the news that a public inquiry is to be held over the safety of the gas holders next to the ground.

The Oval had hoped to build a hotel, along with 2000 additional seats, and an agreement with Lambeth Council had been reached, but a Health and Safety executive has deemed the ancient gas holders - which are still in daily use - a potential hazard to nearby spectators.

According to The Times, Surrey are contemplating decommissioning the gas holders. "This would take years but might be the answer," Paul Sheldon, the chief executive, told the newspaper. "We convinced Lambeth Council, who were very vigilant, that this would be a safe project. They were convinced there was no risk and were swayed by the area's regeneration and the employment that the hotel would bring.

"This will be a severe test case as there are gas holders in Stratford which will have implications for the Olympics in London. We are fortunate that Arora Hotels are not abandoning us, but building inflation is running at 10 per cent a year."

The inquiry has been called by Hazel Blears, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.