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No evidence for gas-holder claim: Justin McCracken responds

The Editor
Evening Standard
PO Box 2309
London W8 5EE


Ken Livingstone couldn't be more wrong ('No evidence for gas-holder claim', ES 19 November) in saying that the Health & Safety Executive's (HSE) advice about the dangers to homes near gasholders is 'unjustified alarmism'.

HSE regulates all major hazard sites to ensure that the risk of an incident is as low as reasonably practicable. Despite this, there are on average 3 major gas escapes from the gasholders in this country each year. Last year there were 3 major escapes, 2 of which were in London. One of the main reasons that these have not resulted in major incidents and potential loss of life is that local Councils are advised against new building near them by HSE.

HSE does not seek to ban all development but aims to strike a balance between public safety and the need for new development. However in the case of the new building at Bethnal Green we considered the potential risk so serious that we asked the Secretary of State to call it in for a public enquiry. This was agreed. And the local councillors in Tower Hamlets have also agreed with HSE because they voted last month to stop the development near these gasholders.

Earlier this year HSE offered a meeting with the Mayor to discuss this important issue; the offer still stands although he has not hitherto responded.

Yours faithfully

Justin McCracken
Deputy Chief Executive
Health and Safety Executive

Updated 2012-09-11