Planning Inspector's decision on planning application for re-development of the Admiral Nelson public house in Falmouth Cornwall: HSE statement
The planning inspector who presided over the planning inquiry into an application to redevelop the Admiral Nelson public house in Falmouth Cornwall advised HSE on 11 January 2011 of her decision not to grant planning permission (Appeal A). This statement represents HSE's considered response to the Planning Inspectors' conclusions.
HSE had advised Cornwall Council against granting planning permission for the re-development of the public house into forty-six residential apartments for the over fifty-five age group. This was because of its close proximity to a hazardous installation, W F Fertilisers (now re-branded as Bunn Falmouth) which is subject to the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations (COMAH) 1999 (guidance on the COMAH regulations).
Cornwall Council's planning committee resolved not to grant planning permission for a number of reasons, but did not cite safety as a reason for refusal. The developer, 'Acorn Development' appealed the decision and HSE appeared as a witness at the planning inquiry.
HSE welcomed the Planning Inspector's decision which supported HSE's advice in a number of important ways:
- the Inspector was of the opinion that the consultation distance was set appropriately and the correct sensitivity level had been applied:
- HSE's assessment of the level of risk was supported by the Inspector who was "not persuaded that the existing alternative use of one of the warehouses, the current seasonality of storage activity, or any other factors relating to the business practice of the present occupiers carry sufficient weight to warrant a reduction to the HSE's assessed level of risk". She considered that dependent on the needs of the business the storage of the hazardous substances at W F Fertilisers could at any time revert to the maximum levels permitted in the Hazardous Substances Consent:
- the Inspector concluded that "the combined weight of the factors in favour of the proposed development would still be greatly outweighed by the substantial risk associated with the storage of hazardous chemicals at Falmouth Docks":
- in her conclusion she also considered that "to grant planning permission for the proposed development would result in an unacceptable increase in the number of people exposed to those risks" and therefore determined that Appeal A should be dismissed:
- HSE will be considering the technical aspects raised by the planning inspector which will inform future technical policy development as appropriate.
On 28 April 2009 HSE advised Cornwall Council against granting planning permission for this application. HSE had advised against the development because:
- it would add a significant residential development in the inner zone (and therefore at high risk) of W F Fertilisers where the consequences of a major accident would be most severe; and
- the proposed development would introduce a new, intensive development and consequently additional people (some of whom may be particularly vulnerable because of their age) to the residual risk of a major accident at W F Fertilisers.
The planning inquiry, which started on 14 September took place in Truro, Cornwall and ran for six days. HSE appeared at the Inquiry as a witness to ensure the planning inspector was fully aware of HSE's safety concerns and could take them into account during the decision making process.
The decision was taken by the Planning Inspector under delegated powers from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
Local Planning Authorities are legally required to consult HSE on certain planning applications within the consultation distance of installations where hazardous substances are stored. HSE advises on the nature and severity of risks presented by major hazards to people in the area surrounding proposed developments, so that those risks can be given due weight, when balanced against other relevant planning considerations, in making planning decisions.
Local Planning Authorities are required to give serious consideration to public safety issues when considering planning applications for development in the vicinity of major hazard installations. HSE's advice should not be overridden without the most careful consideration.