Guidance Print Hazardous Substances

Handling development proposals around hazardous installations

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What expert advice should be sought on planning applications around hazardous installations?

Local planning authorities should know the location of hazardous installations as they will have been informed of consultation zones by the Health and Safety Executive and consultation distances by the Office for Nuclear Regulation. For licensed explosives sites the license holder will provide the local authority with a safeguarding plan for the site. Schedule 5 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2010 requires local planning authorities to consult the Health and Safety Executive on applications above certain thresholds in these consultation zones.

They must consult the Health and Safety Executive on applications in consultation zones for residential development, and large retail, office or industrial developments. They must also consult the Health and Safety Executive on applications which are likely to result in an increase in the number of people working in or visiting the notified area. Particular regard should be had to children, older people or disabled people. There may be particular issues to consider for hotels and similar developments where people may be unfamiliar with their surroundings, or which may result in a large number of people in one place. Within consultation zones certain permitted development rights may not apply. For each type of development, the Heath and Safety Executive’s advice to local planning authorities will take account of the maximum quantity of a substance permitted by a hazardous substances consent and any conditions attached to it.

Local planning authorities must also consult with Health and Safety Executive, Environment Agency and, where the development could affect a sensitive natural area, with Natural England. This is necessary for new establishments, modifications to existing establishments, and development (including transport links) in the vicinity of existing establishments, which could increase the risk or consequences of major accident.

Local planning authorities should also consult the Office for Nuclear Regulation in certain circumstances.


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How should applications for planning permission which are below thresholds for consultation be dealt with?

Local planning authorities should be alert to encroachment of development in consultation zones, including where larger developments are divided between smaller applications to fall below consultation thresholds. Unplanned and encroaching development can add costs for businesses to provide additional safety measures, and risk increased consequences should a major accident occur. Local planning authorities can consult the Health and Safety Executive on other applications, for example where several planning applications fall below the thresholds in the regulations but would require consultation if they had been submitted as one larger application.

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How will the Health and Safety Executive be consulted?

PADHI (Planning Advice for Developments near Hazardous Installations) is the name of the methodology used by Health and Safety Executive to give land use planning advice. Health and Safety Executive has developed a software version of this methodology, known as PADHI+, which is available on-line to planning authorities, to enable them to consult Health and Safety Executive directly for advice on developments around major hazard sites and pipelines. As a statutory consultee, the Health and Safety Executive will provide advice within 21 days.


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What consideration will the local planning authority give to Health and Safety Executive advice?

Health and Safety Executive’s role is an advisory one. It has no power to direct refusal of planning permission or of hazardous substances consent. Where Health and Safety Executive advises that there are health and safety grounds for refusing, or imposing conditions on an application, it will, on request, explain to the local planning authority the reasons for its advice.

The decision on whether to grant permission rests with the local planning authority. In view of its acknowledged expertise in assessing the off-site risks presented by the use of hazardous substances, any advice from Health and Safety Executive that planning permission should be refused for development for, at or near to a hazardous installation or pipeline should not be overridden without the most careful consideration.

Where that advice is material to any subsequent appeal, the Health and Safety Executive may provide expert evidence at any local inquiry. More information on the issues the Health and Safety Executive takes into account when advising on applications can be found on the HSE Land Use Planning website..

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What happens if a local planning authority would like to give planning permission against Health and Safety Executive advice?

Where a local planning authority is minded to grant planning permission against Health and Safety Executive’s advice, it should give Health and Safety Executive advance notice of that intention, and allow 21 days from that notice for the Health and Safety Executive to give further consideration to the matter. This will enable the Health and Safety Executive to consider whether to request the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to call-in the application. The Secretary of State exercises the power to call-in applications very selectively.

Health and Safety Executive will normally consider its role to be discharged when it is satisfied that the local authority is acting in full understanding of the advice received and the consequences that could follow. It will consider recommending call-in action only in cases of exceptional concern or where important policy or safety issues are at stake.

Local planning authorities should notify the Health and Safety Executive where planning permission has been granted in the Safeguarding Zone of a Health and Safety Executive licensed explosives site.

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How can conflicts between consents and development be addressed?

It is good planning practice for local planning authorities to work proactively with businesses that have consent where there is potential conflict between the existence of a consent and a local authority’s planning priorities.

Reviews of consents to ensure they are still in use could help identify where consents may be redundant or could be given up.

It is also important to plan strategically for the chemicals industry and other uses that require hazardous substances consents. Business, industry and local planning authorities working together when Local Plans are being prepared can help to reduce future problems and promote safety of people and protection of the environment.

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If hazardous substances consent is no longer required will it still prevent development nearby?

Redundant hazardous substances consents can be a barrier to development. Sometimes a consent is no longer required by an operator. For example, a facility may have shut down or a site redeveloped. However, unless the hazardous substances consent is revoked then consultation zones are still likely to apply. Hazardous substances authorities should be proactive about revoking consents that no are no longer required.


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What about development around nuclear installations?

Consultation requirements can vary between sites for proposed developments in the vicinity of licensed nuclear installations. Administrative arrangements exist under which the Office for Nuclear Regulation specify consultation zones and the type of developments on which it should be consulted.

Where the local planning authority is in any doubt about whether the Office for Nuclear Regulation should be consulted in a particular case, it should contact them at the earliest opportunity.

Policy on public safety from major accidents – including those at nuclear installations – is set out at paragraphs 172 and 194 of the National Planning Policy Framework.

Given their statutory role in public safety, local authority emergency planners will have a key role to play in advising local planning authorities on developments around nuclear installations. Early engagement can help to address issues which may otherwise affect development proposals at a later stage.

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How is development around licensed explosives facilities considered?

The Health and Safety Executive issue consultation zones around licensed explosive sites and licensed ports. Licences issued by the Health and Safety Executive specify that each place keeping or handling explosives shall be separated from other occupied buildings. This ‘safety distance’ varies according to the types and quantities of explosives present.

The licence does not of itself prevent construction or activities within these distances, but this may lead to further restrictions being imposed on the licensee. This could result in the operations with explosives becoming unviable. Licensees are therefore usually alert to any development which occurs or is proposed in the vicinity of their premises and which may seriously affect their operations. So that the Health and Safety Executive is also made aware of the possibility of encroachment on the safety distances local planning authorities are required to consult Health and Safety Executive at an early stage about applications for development in the vicinity of licensed explosives sites and licensed ports.

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What about Local and Neighbourhood Development Orders?

Local and Neighbourhood Development Orders allow for development to take place without the need for an express grant of planning permission. The same consultation requirements set out above apply in preparing Order as apply to deciding applications for planning permission. If a neighbourhood planning body is unsure whether there is a consultation zone covering their neighbourhood it should ask the local planning authority in the first instance.

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Could the zones for consultation change over time? 

Changes may sometimes be required to consultation distances around sites that already have a consent for the presence of hazardous substances. Health and Safety Executive/Office for Nuclear Regulation will keep the consultation zones under review and will inform the local planning authority if changes are appropriate. Similarly, the local planning authority should liaise with Health and Safety Executive/Office for Nuclear Regulation if it becomes aware of changed circumstances that might affect the consultation zone.

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