Secretary of State's decision on planning application for re-development of the Ram Brewery site: HSE statement

The Secretary of State (SoS) for Communities and Local Government (CLG) announced on 30 June 2010 his decision not to grant planning permission for development at the Ram Brewery site in Wandsworth, London. HSE had advised Wandsworth Council against granting planning permission for the development of commercial and residential buildings, particularly two very tall towers, due to their close proximity to the Wandsworth Gasholder station. HSE appeared as a witness at the Inquiry and gave evidence about the major accident risks from the Wandsworth Gasholder station. This statement represents HSE's considered response to the SoS's and the Planning Inspector's conclusions.

HSE welcomed the decision by the SoS which supported HSE's advice in a number of important ways:

The decision report and letter support the HSE methodology in a number of key areas:

HSE's land use planning policy is in line with Article 12 of the Seveso II Directive which provides for the maintenance of appropriate distances between major hazard sites and the public. A number of other cases support HSE's policy in this area including a High Court judgment (Unicoin (Dartford) Ltd v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Dartford Council [2008] and a recent appeal decision, which found in favour of Wiltshire Council's decision not to grant planning permission based in part on HSE's advice – September 2010. Based on its policies and proven methodology HSE will continue to provide land use planning advice on planning applications around major hazard sites.


On 3 December 2008, Wandsworth Council in London informed HSE that it was minded to go against HSE advice and grant planning permission for the redevelopment of four sites in the vicinity of the Wandsworth Gasholder Station, which is a major hazard installation and a lower tier COMAH site (guidance on the COMAH regulations)

Three of the sites are known collectively as the Ram Brewery site and the proposed development would have included two very tall (32 and 42 storey) residential tower blocks at the end of the redevelopment site nearest to Wandsworth Gasholder Station. The total number of residential units for the whole site (a mix of 1-bedroom to 4-bedroom flats) would have been 829.

HSE had advised against the development because it would put more people at potential risk, should a major accident occur at the gasholder station. The advice, and the evidence that was given to the Inquiry, was based on HSE's assessment of the risks from foreseeable incidents at the Wandsworth Gasholder Station and their consequences, which are consistent with those of the gasholder operator.

The Council decided to grant planning permission against HSE's advice. The Government Office for London (GOL) called in the application because it was not in line with a number of national and regional planning guidelines. HSE gave evidence at the Inquiry which started on 3rd November 2009 and concluded on 2nd December 2009.

Further information

Updated: 2021-07-13