Under current legislation decision-makers are required to consult HSE on certain planning proposals around major hazard establishments and major hazard pipelines and to take into account HSE’s representations when determining associated applications.
This is to ensure that the UK complies with Article 13 of the Seveso III Directive which has the specific objective for EC Member States to control certain new development to maintain adequate separation, including residential areas, buildings and areas of public use around major hazards when the development increases the risk or consequences of a major accident. In essence, decision-makers should ensure that new development does not significantly worsen the situation should a major accident occur.
HSE’s role in land use planning is an advisory one because safety implications, however important, cannot be divorced from other relevant planning matters. When HSE advises a local planning authority that a planning application should be refused on safety grounds, the planning authority is guided not to override HSE’s advice on safety without the most careful consideration.
Since 1992, Hazardous Substances Authorities (usually the local planning authority) have been required to consult HSE on applications for hazardous substances consent, when companies wish to store certain hazardous substances at or above specified quantities, which would lead to the creation of a new major hazard establishment.
Sites that use and store large quantities of hazardous substances pose risks to the surrounding population. These risks are regulated and managed in a number of ways, mainly through compliance with the COMAH Control Of Major Accident Hazards Regulations but also by controls on land use planning.