Planning Circular 3/2015: Planning controls for hazardous substances

Guidance on the planning procedures around hazardous substances consent, relevant applications for planning permission and planning policies.

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Annex A


A1. The Planning system is a plan led system and the Directive requires that land use planning policies take into account the aims of the Directive. This means addressing in policies the need to keep appropriate distances between establishments and areas where people are likely to be present and to protect areas that are environmentally sensitive. Policies should also address the taking of technical measures at existing establishments so as not to increase the risks to human health and the environment.

A2. It is important that the public, planning authorities, those storing and/ or using hazardous substances and other developers engage in the preparation of planning policies and plans and programmes, to ensure their views are considered. These policies, plans and programmes will set the context for decisions on hazardous substances consent, planning permission and other aspects of planning.

National Planning Policies

A3. Regulation 21 requires Scottish Ministers to take into account relevant factors relating to the Directive when formulating the National Planning Framework or Scottish Planning Policy, namely:

  • the objectives of preventing major accidents and limiting the consequences of such accidents for human health and the environment; and
  • the need in the long term-
    • to maintain appropriate safety distances between establishments covered by the Directive and residential areas, buildings and areas of public use, recreational areas and, as far as possible, major transport routes;
    • to protect areas of particular natural sensitivity or interest in the vicinity of establishments, where appropriate through appropriate safety distances or other relevant measures; and
    • in the case of existing establishments, to take additional technical measures in accordance with Article 5 of the Directive so as not to increase the risks to human health and the environment.

Development Plans and Supplementary Guidance

A4. In considering hazardous substances consent applications authorities must have regard to material considerations - including the relevant provisions of the development plan - (section 7(2) of the Principal Act). With planning applications for development involving or in the vicinity of establishments, decisions are required to be made in line with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise (sections 25 and 37 of the Planning Act).

A5. The DPR require strategic planning authorities and planning authorities, as appropriate, to take into account the matters listed in paragraph A3 above when preparing strategic development plans and local development plans and related main issues reports.

A6. The requirements to take the matters set out in paragraph A3 into account also apply to the preparation of supplementary guidance which is to be adopted as part of a strategic development plan or a local development plan.

A7. SEPA is among the key agencies specified in the DPR to engage in strategic and local development plan preparation. While HSE and ONR are not so specified, planning authorities whose area, or any part of whose area, may be affected by the presence of establishments or nuclear sites, should consult these bodies as part of their plan preparation or relevant supplementary guidance.

Plans and Programmes - Public Involvement

A8. There are requirements (regulation 22) for ensuring public participation in the preparation, modification or review of relevant plans and programmes; that is, those relating to the siting of new establishments or modification of establishments or development in the vicinity of establishments where the siting, modification or development may increase the risk or consequences of a major accident. These requirements do not apply where the plan or programme is subject to strategic environmental assessment, which has its own public participation requirements.


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