HSE launches paid-for land use planning advice service

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The Health and Safety Executive has launched its first commercial service providing bespoke land use planning advice off the back of government plans for the regulator to derive an increasing amount of its funding from commercial activities.

The scheme, which is being rolled out in stages, will make it “quicker and easier” for developers and local authorities to access a pre-application advice for both planning applications and hazardous substances consent (HSC).

HSE says the service, launched on 28 July and expected to be fully up and running by March 2015, will reduce the amount of “red tape” involved in the planning process, giving developers and planners “quick or even immediate” information on plots of land.

The service was was under consideration when Martin Temple published his triennial review report on the form and function of the regulator earlier this year. The EEF chair backed HSE's proposals, saying it “will enable HSE to provide a service which is more responsive to the broad needs of society in balancing development, growth and public risk.”

As a statutory consultee to local planning authorities (LPAs) for applications involving land near sites with the potential for major incidents, such as chemical plants and pipelines, HSE will continue to provide obligatory services for free, but the “enhanced” services will come with a price tag.

HSE is also consulted by local authorities when a site operator makes an application to store or use of large amounts of hazardous substances.

In 2012/13, HSE provided advice to councils on over 830 planning applications and 140 hazard substance consents.

Under the scheme, developers and local authorities will have three options when looking for planning advice and information, depending on how complex the proposals are.

“The advisory service is being planned and designed around what users need,” said Peter Brown, head of HSE’s Hazardous Installations Policy Division. “Discussions with developers and other parties involved in the planning process have indicated that being able to find out more detail about a piece of land in advance of purchase helps to quicken the development process and can also save significant costs. 

“By enabling easier and more transparent access to HSE’s land use planning advice, developers and planners will be able to get quick or even immediate answers to queries related to a plot of land they may be interested in purchasing or developing”.

The most simple of applications – where planners seek to discover whether the proposed site falls within an HSE consultation zone – will continue to be free, and applicants will receive details of HSE’s policies and approach to land use planning for major hazard sites.

If the proposed developer is looking for advice, they will be directed down one of two paths, depending on how complex the proposed development is.

For more straightforward applications, HSE will consider the proposals and, using the methodology used to give land use planning advice for new developments near hazardous installations, advise whether or not the proposal is likely to be accepted. This will cost £350+VAT.

More complex cases will be directed down a third, “bespoke” route: for £135+VAT an hour plus expenses, developers can receive advice on proposed plans, advice on re-designing lay-outs and other specific tasks.

The move comes after the government released its response to the Temple’s review last month, promising to “go further” than Temple suggested in developing HSE’s commercial revenue streams.

HSE says its scientific arm the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL), which is the main vehicle for the regulator’s monetisation, will take on an increased role in delivering advice on planning applications.  



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