Any site which needs to use or store hazardous substances such as chlorine, hydrogen, or natural gas, at or above certain thresholds, requires a hazardous substances consent (HSC) before it can operate.
The current list of hazardous substances and thresholds was published in 2015, see Schedule 1 of The Planning (Hazardous Substances) Regulations 2015 (as amended).
HSC is an important mechanism in the control of major accident hazards. It is designed to regulate the presence of hazardous substances so that they cannot be kept or used above specified quantities until the responsible authorities have had the opportunity to assess the risk of an accident and its consequences for people in the surrounding area and for the environment.
The Hazardous Substances Authority (HSA), which is usually the local planning authority (LPA), is responsible for deciding whether to grant or revoke HSC. As health and safety at work and environmental legislation also apply, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Environment Agency (EA) provide independent and impartial advice to the HSA on all applications for HSC.
When HSE is consulted on an application for HSC, it creates a three-zone map and issues advice to the HSA for or against the granting of the HSC. If HSC is granted, the three-zone map is issued to the relevant LPA which must then consult HSE on any future planning applications proposed within the consultation distances. HSE has developed a software version of the methodology used in providing land use planning advice which is available on-line to planning authorities as a Planning Advice Web App. This allows planning authorities to consult HSE directly for advice on developments around major hazard sites and major hazard pipelines.
Even if an installation ceases its operations on site, once granted a HSC remains with the land until the HSA revokes it. HSE and EA may also be consulted by a HSA before it issues a Revocation Order. If HSE is informed that a HSC has been revoked, the three-zone map will be removed, freeing up land for development without the need to consult HSE for its land use planning advice.
The Hazardous Substances Authority (usually the local authority) will normally provide the relevant forms to apply for HSC. These are based on Schedule 2 of The Planning (Control of Major-Accident Hazards) Regulations 1999 (Prescribed Forms, Notices and Certificates).