The Pipelines Safety Regulations 1996 are split into two parts; general duties applying to all pipeline operators and additional duties applying to operators of Major Accident Hazard Pipelines (MAHP) (those pipelines carrying prescribed dangerous fluids).
Following the Buncefield incident the HSE has been considering reclassifying gasoline pipelines as a MAHP, this would be done in amendments to the Pipeline Safety Regulations 1996. The reclassification of gasoline pipelines will place certain additional requirements on the pipelines, including a proposed consultation distance around such pipelines for planning issues.
The current methodology adopted by the HSE for establishing consultation distances is based on ‘average’ conditions along pipeline routes and the risks posed to occupiers of developments under ‘average’ conditions within the zone. Currently the amendments would set the consultation distance at 80m.
If gasoline pipelines are upgraded to MAHP the local authorities would be required by law to seek advice from the HSE on all planning applications for development within the consultation distance. The HSE’s advice would be based on controlling the risks to individuals and preventing the incremental build up of newly occupied buildings within the zone, whilst also minimising economic disruption should an incident occur. An extreme view is for the HSE to advise against all buildings that are not normally occupied. However, this is an extreme view, and unlikely to be adopted.
There is also a proposal to adopt staged consultation distances, which would mean the planning restrictions where more stringent immediately adjacent to the pipelines and then as you move out through the ‘zones’ less planning restrictions would apply.
Planning restrictions are also likely to vary depending on the land use and area of the proposed development. There is also a proposal for additional protection measures or mitigating measures to be carried out to pipelines to enable certain developments and encourage approval from the HSE. These would include such things as lowering pipelines, adding additional protection in the form of thicker pipe walls, or concrete protection slabs, such measures might enable the consultation distances to be reduced. For large developments it may be feasible to divert pipelines to facilitate planning.