The purpose of hazardous substances consent
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What is the purpose of hazardous substances consent?
The hazardous substances consent process ensures that hazardous substances can be kept or used in significant amounts only after an assessment of the risk to people and the environment in the surrounding area. This is a key part of the controls for storage and use of hazardous substances which could, in quantities at or above specified limits, present a major off-site risk. The system of hazardous substances consent does not replace requirements under health and safety legislation.
Hazardous substances consent provides control over the presence of hazardous substances whether or not an associated planning permission is required. Where the presence of a hazardous substance is directly associated with a proposed development, local planning authorities can exercise some control through the decisions on applications for planning permission.
The consent process regulates the storage and use of hazardous substances and enables breaches of control, which may present serious risks, to be dealt with quickly and effectively.
Even after measures have been taken to prevent major accidents, there will remain the residual risk of an accident which cannot entirely be eliminated. Hazardous substances consent ensures that this residual risk to people in the vicinity or to the environment is taken into account before a hazardous substance is allowed to be present in a controlled quantity. The extent of this risk will depend upon where and how a hazardous substance is present; and the nature of existing and prospective uses of the application site and its surroundings.
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Who decides if the risk of storing hazardous substances is tolerable?
The hazardous substances authority has responsibility for deciding whether the risk of storing hazardous substances is tolerable for the community. Therefore the decision on whether a particular proposal to store or use a hazardous substance should be allowed is one for the hazardous substances authority.
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Who is the hazardous substances authority and what is its role?
The hazardous substances authority will usually be the local planning authority. The local council should therefore be the first point of contact to check who the local hazardous substances authority is. The hazardous substances authority for an area determines hazardous substances consent applications and enforces the controls.
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Who advises the hazardous substances authority on the level of risk?
The Health and Safety Executive advises the hazardous substances authority on the nature and severity of the risk to persons in the vicinity arising from the presence of a hazardous substance. The Environment Agency advises on the risk to the environment, including if an environmental permit is needed.
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Does hazardous substances consent override planning permission requirements?
Where there is development associated with the storage or use of hazardous substances, a separate planning permission may also be necessary. Dealing with related applications for hazardous substances consent and for planning permission together should speed up decision making and avoid unnecessary duplication in providing information.
There may be different considerations, and decisions, for related applications. It is important that related decisions are not inconsistent (e.g. conditions containing conflicting requirements). To avoid confusion, detailed control over the manner in which a hazardous substance is to be kept or used is best addressed by hazardous substances consent conditions.