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Environmental Impact Assessments

SPC/Technical/General/44

Version No:
6
OG status:
Fully Open
Author unit / section:

CEMHD5 and MH Policy – Land Use Planning

Target audience:

All staff in CEMHD, ED and LAO

Purpose

1. This SPC describes HSE’s role as a statutory consultee for certain Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs). It informs staff about the minimal role that HSE has in commenting on EIAs and Environmental Statements (ESs) and provides information relating to EIAs for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs).

2. It is not applicable to EIAs for decommissioning nuclear reactors as those are dealt with by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR). 

Background

3. The process of Environmental Impact Assessment is governed in England by the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 (as amended), in Wales by the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Wales) Regulations 2016 and in Scotland by the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2011. The Regulations (the EIA Regulations) all set out similar requirements.

4. Developers applying for planning permission for proposed developments that are either

  1. Schedule 1 development or
  2. Schedule 2 development which is likely to have  significant effects on the environment by virtue of factors such as its nature, size or location

should ensure their application to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) in England and Wales or the Planning Authority (PA) in Scotland is accompanied by an Environmental Statement (ES). The purpose of these requirements is to enable the LPA/PA to consider the potential environmental impact of certain proposed developments.

5. The Electricity Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (England and Wales) Regulations 2000 (as amended in 2007) and the Electricity Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2000 (as amended in 2008) are relevant to generating stations and to the installation of electric lines above ground. If you are consulted on an EIA under these regulations, provided it is not a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (see paragraph 10 below) you should follow the procedure set out at paragraph 15.

6. This SPC covers:

  1. Requests from developers about the information that should be included in an ES (“scoping opinion”).
  2. Requests for environmental information that might assist developers to prepare an ES.
  3. Responses to LPAs/PAs.

HSE’s role as a statutory consultee for ESs and EIAs

7. HSE is a statutory consultee for the purposes of the EIA Regs under the following legislation:

  1. In England by virtue of regulation 2(1) of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2011 read together with Article 18 of The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015;
  2. In Wales by virtue of regulation 2(1) of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Wales) Regulations 2016 when read together with Article 14 of The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Wales) Order 2012 (as amended);
  3. In Scotland by virtue of regulation 2(1) of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 when read together with regulation 25 of The Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013  

8. HSE will therefore be consulted under the EIA Regulations for the following developments:

  1. Developments within consultation distances around major hazard sites and major hazard pipelines.
  2. New COMAH sites, new sites requiring Hazardous Substances Consent, and modifications to these sites.

Types of consultation

9. HSE may be consulted in a variety of circumstances by LPAs/PAs, developers or the Secretary of State (SoS)/Scottish Ministers (via the relevant Government department). The ES and any covering letters should make clear which of the following possible circumstances apply: a, b and c are consultation stages prior to the submission of an ES; d, e and f concern ESs sent to HSE.

  1. A developer may be aware that an application for planning permission will require an ES but be uncertain as to the type of information required. The developer can approach the LPA/PA for a “scoping opinion” about these issues and the PA must respond within 5 weeks. However, before responding the PA must consult relevant consultation bodies, which includes HSE.
  2. Developers can request a “scoping opinion” from the SoS/Scottish Ministers if the LPA/PA fails to respond in time. The SoS/Scottish Ministers are similarly obliged to consult the consultation bodies and must also reply within 5 weeks.
  3. Developers may notify the LPA/PA/SoS/Scottish Ministers of their intention to submit an ES with an application for planning permission. The notification should include details of the development and the environmental consequences that will be referred to in the ES. The LPA/PA/SoS/Scottish Ministers are required to notify the consultation bodies in writing with the name and address of the developer and of their duty to make information available if the developer approaches them. In these circumstances, HSE is obliged to provide information relevant to the preparation of an ES (with certain exceptions covered by regulation 12 of the Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and regulation 10 of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004). Normal disclosure charges apply to the provision of this information.
  4. An ES may be submitted to HSE directly from the developer. Alternatively, where an ES is submitted to PAs, the PA should send a copy to the consultation bodies to allow those bodies the opportunity to make representations.
  5. Where environmental statements are sent to the SoS/Scottish Ministers they must also provide consultation bodies with the opportunity to make representations.
  6. Where further information/evidence in respect of an ES is sent to the LPA/PA, SoS or Scottish Ministers, it will also be sent to those consultees such as HSE who were sent the original statement.

Consultation on EIAs for Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs)

10. HSE is a statutory consultee for all NSIPs in England and Wales under regulation 3 of the Infrastructure Planning (Applications: Prescribed Forms and Procedure) Regulations 2009 and must respond to consultations from the Planning Inspectorate (PI) and promoters of NSIPs within strict timescales.  Consultations on NSIPs are dealt with by MH LUP Policy who consult the relevant parts of HSE and co-ordinate HSE’s response.  As part of the consultation process, the PI will consult HSE on the scoping opinion regarding issues to be covered by the EIA.  Although HSE does not respond directly on the EIA Scoping Report (because in most cases it cannot usefully comment on EIAs) this stage is used to determine

  1. whether the application is likely to fall within the consultation distance of a major hazard site or pipeline, or the safeguard zone of a HSE licensed Explosive site, or
  2. if the development itself might involve the presence of hazardous substances.

11. If you receive a consultation on an EIA under either the Planning Act 2008 or the Infrastructure Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2009, it is likely to be a NSIP application.  In these circumstances, you should contact MH LUP Policy straight away and, following agreement with them, forward the consultation to NSIP.applications@hse.gov.uk for them to process. Please note that if the request cites other legislation it does not need to be referred to MH LUP Policy and the procedure in paragraph 15 below should be followed.

Contents of environmental statement

12. The contents of ESs are described in Schedule 4 of the EIA Regs. An ES should describe the impact of the proposed development on all aspects of the environment including the population.

Responses to consultations on EIAS

13. HSE cannot usefully comment on most EIAs. The purpose of an EIA is to ensure best environmental policy is implemented and to ensure effects on the environment are taken into account at an early stage of proposed development. EIAs are a supplement to development consent procedures. The authorities that should be consulted are those likely to be concerned because of their specific environmental responsibilities. People (and their health) are aspects of the environment to be considered in EIAs (European Directive 85/337/EEC refers). HSE is not the prime authority concerned with risks to human health via the environment; HSE’s concern is risks to people’s health and safety arising more directly from work activities. Where HSE needs to deal with issues at an early stage of a proposed development, there are systems in place to address our concerns e.g. hazardous substances consents, land use planning at and around major hazard sites/pipelines, permissioning schemes, registration schemes, notification schemes, etc.

14. Therefore HSE’s reply to consultations on EIAs will normally be by a standard letter. Other Directorate/Divisions are content with the responses and do not wish to be involved in the consultation. The standard letters at Annex 1 are used to reply to the following types of consultation:

  1. Request (from a developer/LPA/PA/SoS etc) about the type of information that should be included in an ES (“scoping opinion”);
  2. Request for available relevant information to include in an ES;
  3. Submission of an ES so that HSE can make representations.

Procedure for responding to EIAs

15. The HSE office that receives an EIA consultation should deal with it locally and should not forward or copy the consultation or the response to anyone else in HSE, unless it relates to a NSIP (see paragraph 11 above).  Provided it does not relate to an NSIP it should be processed as follows:

  1. The office that receives the consultation issues a standard response explaining that HSE cannot usefully contribute to the EIA. The appropriate letter should be chosen according to the nature of the consultation i.e. request for a scoping opinion, request for any relevant information, submission of an ES.
  2. All documentation, along with the EIA should be returned to the correspondent along with the reply. A copy of the response should be retained.

16. The Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency have been informed that we will be handling EIAs in this way and therefore will not expect us to liaise with them about EIAs for COMAH sites or EIAs for developments in the vicinity of COMAH sites. They may approach HSE for advice/information about e.g. the history of the site (if known) or the record of the dutyholder, to help them respond, and HSE should assist as far as possible in these areas.

Further information

If you have any queries or need further information please contact CEMHD5, Redgrave Court.

Annex 1

STANDARD REPLIES

(a) STANDARD LETTER IN RESPONSE TO A REQUEST FOR A “SCOPING OPINION”

Dear ….

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT FOR PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT AT ….

Thank you for your letter of ………asking what information should be provided in the environmental statement for the proposed development at …….
Environmental Impact Assessments are concerned with projects which are likely to have significant effects on the environment, whereas HSE’s principal concerns are the health and safety of people at work and those affected by work activities. Therefore HSE cannot usefully comment on what information should be included in the environmental statement of the proposed development. However, the environmental statements should not include measures which would conflict with the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and its relevant statutory provisions.

(b) STANDARD LETTER IN RESPONSE TO A REQUEST FOR RELEVANT AVAILABLE INFORMATION FOR THE PREPARATION OF AN ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENT

Dear…….

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT FOR PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT AT ….

Thank you for your letter of ………asking HSE to make available any information which may be relevant to the preparation of an environmental statement for the proposed development at …….
Environmental Impact Assessments are concerned with projects which are likely to have significant effects on the environment, whereas HSE’s principal concerns are the health and safety of people at work and those affected by work activities. HSE has no information which would be useful to you in the preparation of an environmental statement for your proposed development.
You should note that your environmental statement should not include measures which would conflict with the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and its relevant statutory provisions.

(c) STANDARD LETTER IN RESPONSE TO BEING CONSULTED ON AN ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENT

Dear…….

ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT FOR PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT AT ….

Thank you for your letter of ………enclosing a copy of the environmental statement for the proposed development by ………..at …….
Environmental Impact Assessments are concerned with projects which are likely to have significant effects on the environment whereas HSE’s principal concerns are the health and safety of people at work and those affected by work activities. HSE has no comments on this environmental statement.

Updated 2016-08-08