The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is a statutory consultancy offering expertise in the planning phase of developments. What role does HSE play and who do you work with?

Specifically, HSE’s role is as a statutory consultee for planning applications around major hazard sites and major accident hazard pipelines. Such sites might include large-scale petrol storage facilities, oil refineries, chemical processing plants and so on. We set a consultation distance around the major hazard site or major accident hazard pipeline, within which a planning authority must consult us over relevant developments which are likely to lead to an increased population around the major hazard. Ultimately we will advise on safety grounds whether or not planning permission should be granted.

What are the common challenges you face and how do you work to overcome them?

It can be difficult for us when developers only discover that HSE has a role to play in land use planning when their plans are at an advanced stage. In such cases, any issues can become significantly more challenging to resolve, and confrontations with developers can potentially arise.

Another challenge is raising awareness of what actually is allowable in terms of safe construction within HSE consultation zones and getting developers to understand that we will do whatever we can to help them.

Red tape is often a sticking point and a common bugbear of many developers. What can be done to streamline the planning process whilst ensuring projects remain safe?

For developers, the conventional planning application process might entail spending time, money and effort on submitting an application, only for it to encounter delays when it reaches the consultation stages because the proposed development falls within an HSE consultation zone around a major hazard.

We then have to consider the proposed development’s safety implications and, as a statutory consultee, we may have to advise against development. However, by this stage of the planning process the developer is likely to have already invested significant time and money in the project.

Safety implications, however important, cannot be divorced from other relevant planning matters.

However, it is possible to reduce the red tape involved in the planning process and the developer can find out, before submitting an application, whether or not HSE will have an interest in their proposal because it is impacted by a consultation zone.

Making this information available to the developer at the earliest opportunity is one of the key advantages provided by our enhanced pre-application service to streamline the planning process whilst still ensuring that projects remain safe.

Can you tell us a bit more about the enhanced pre-application service you recently launched and the benefits the service will have?

Our Land Use Planning pre-application service combines a convenient and intuitive online application and a supplementary advice and consultancy service.

The Planning Advice web app improves upon the conventional planning approach in three ways: it is quicker, easier and more cost-effective for developers to access land use planning information and advice before they submit an application.

By informing developers of our likely assessment of an application early in the planning process we enable them to modify their plans, if necessary, at a far lower cost than in the past. If the app indicates that we will advise against a particular proposal, it will generate a document detailing the reasons for this advice which gives the developer information for any subsequent application.

What type of information is available on the Planning Advice web app?

The app provides a variety of information both to developers making pre-application enquiries and to Planning Authorities entering into a formal consultation once a planning application has been submitted.

Registered users can select the area of land for development by entering map co-ordinates or a post code into an interactive map. Using the map tool they can then zoom in and ‘draw’ the boundaries of up to five proposed developments. After entering any supplementary details, the user can ‘submit’ their plan and in response the app will provide information that either:

  • HSE has no land use planning interest in the specified plot
  • HSE ‘has an interest’ because the proposed site lies within the consultation zone of a hazardous installation
  • the proposed site lies within the area identified in a Safeguarding Plan of a licensed explosives site, or
  • the proposed development falls within both the Safeguarding Plan area of a licensed explosives site and the consultation distance of a Hazardous Installation or pipeline.

Whilst the web app provides information on many standard types of development, for more complex proposals – for example large, mixed use proposals, a dedicated team is on hand to provide expert consultancy.

Lastly, with North England Build 2016 on the horizon, what are you look forward to most at the event and what can we expect from your workshop on Day 1?

I’m looking forward to the opportunity to explain the role of HSE’s Land Use Planning team and the services we offer to a wider audience. As part of my workshop, delegates can expect a demonstration of the online web application and are invited to ask questions about it and any other aspects of our enhanced pre-application service. I’ll also be hoping to receive feedback from members of the construction industry as to how we can make the services we provide of greater benefit to them.

Make sure you don’t miss the Land Use Planning workshop at 10am on Day 1 of this year’s North England Build 2016 to find out more about the HSE’s new Land Use Planning Advice Service.

Leave a Reply