Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has claimed that “over cautious” new planning advice by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) means that “16,000 desperately needed new homes in London could be lost.”
The HSE has proposed new risk assessments for planning applications surrounding “hazardous installations” such as gasometers along with existing changes to how land around these installations is used.
According to Mr Livingstone restrictions on this land could lead to the loss of around 16,000 new homes and 12 hectares of employment land.
The Mayor has commissioned independent research which concludes that there is no evidence of serious risk associated with gasometers in London – but that despite this, there will be a significant increase in the number of planning applications opposed by the HSE.
There hasn’t been a major incident or loss of life as a result of a gasometer accident in at least 70 years, the period covered by available records.
In a letter to the HSE Mayor Livingstone accuses the HSE of “wiping out good housing for 40,000 Londoners, many of them in the direst need”
“I suspect that staff at the Health and Safety Executive have good jobs and are well housed. It’s a pity you did not spend a little time considering those people who are not as lucky as you are. It is decisions like this that actually discredit the very real need for genuine health and safety protection. You have my assurance I will do everything possible to overturn this latest decision by your barmy bureaucrats.”
However a spokesman for the HSE told MayorWatch “although the Health and Safety Executive is a statutory consultee on planning applications around major hazard sites it is up to the local authority concerned to make the final decision. The local authority is best placed to balance the economic regeneration needs of an area against the protection of the public: HSE can only advise.”
“While Mr Livingstone is right to say there has not been a major incident involving a gas holder site in London for 70 years, it is impossible to say there won’t be one in the future and the more development around a gas holder site the more potential sources of ignition are created. There are around four major gas releases from gas holders annually in Great Britain. The biggest contributing factor to there not being a major incident is that the gas is able to dissipate before coming into contact with an ignition source. Increased development around gas holder sites would decrease the likelihood of the gas being allowed to dissipate.”