Policy summary - Directive prompts revision of planning position on hazards

Policy: The Role of Planning in Preventing Major Accident Hazards Involving Hazardous Substances

Major hazards: planning remit expands
Major hazards: planning remit expands

Issued by: Department for Communities and Local Government

Issue date: 21 October 2014

Closing date: 1 December 2014

Background: Industrial accidents involving hazardous substances, notably at Seveso in Italy in 1976, prompted the European Union to introduce the Seveso directive in 1992. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has launched a technical consultation on arrangements for transposing the "Seveso III" update of the directive, passed in 2012, into domestic law by 31 May 2015.

Key points: Domestic planning legislation to safeguard against accidents with hazardous material in England pre-dates the planning requirements imposed by the 1996 "Seveso II" update of the original directive and has since been revised to reflect European requirements.

Seveso II applies to around 700 sites in England. The DCLG consultation document notes that the Seveso III directive's requirements will affect the way the UK's existing hazardous substances consent system operates and the way in which the planning system reduces the likelihood and impact of major accidents.

The department is proposing to align the existing list of controlled substances requiring hazardous substances consent with those in Seveso III. It also sets out provisions that would mean that site operators would only need apply for a new consent when a modification to an existing consent "could have significant consequences for major accident hazards".

The document says because the changes will bring a small number of existing plants within the directive's scope for the first time, a new mechanism will be needed to draw them to planners' attention. "Otherwise there is a risk that the presence of the establishment will not be taken into account when considering proposals for development in the vicinity until they are notified under the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations (CIMAH)", it explains.

The DCLG says the aim is to avoid specific regulatory requirements in such circumstances. However, it is proposing to produce online planning guidance encouraging operators of potentially hazardous sites to advise local planning authorities that they now fall within the scope of the directive.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) consulted separately this spring on new CIMAH regulations to take other requirements in the revised directive into account. The DCLG intends to issue the planning guidance before the new regulations come into force, "so as to help the sector understand what is required".

It also comments that it will work with the industry and the HSE to contact relevant establishments, "bearing in mind that it is in their interest to make themselves known to the local planning authority so as to avoid the encroachment of incompatible development".

The document can be found here.

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