Pipeline Safety Regulations need more researc

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News article

Pipeline Safety Regulations need further research 

July 2011

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The Pipeline Safety Regulations, enacted in 1996 in conjunction with the 2003 amendments, have been a constant source of debate and modifications have been scrutinised since 2004.

However, as the issue is so complex and sensitive, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has asked that further consultation and research is carried out before any decisions are taken.

Andrew Bridge, partner in the utilities & infrastructure sector at Fisher German, says that the magnitude and implications of the initial potential proposals mean that further research is wise. “Hopefully, this will ensure that the outcome provides a practical solution to the concerns relating to major accident hazard pipelines,” he explains.

“The implications could be significant to infrastructure owners and developers alike and, as such, the costs associated with change may render an existing piece of pipeline network no longer feasible to operate or, alternatively, sterilise large tranches of developable land.”

Proposed changes to Pipeline Safety Regulations 1996

The regulations are split into two parts. There are general duties that apply to all pipeline operators and additional duties that apply to operators of major accident hazard pipelines (MAHP).

Following the Buncefield incident in December 2005, the HSE is considering reclassifying gasoline pipelines as MAHPs. This would be done in amendments to the Pipeline Safety Regulations 1996 and would place additional requirements on the pipelines, including a proposed consultation distance around them 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 under ‘average’ conditions within the zone. Currently, the amendments would set the consultation distance at 80m. If gasoline pipelines are upgraded to MAHP, local authorities would be required to seek advice from the HSE on all planning applications for development within the consultation distance.

There is also a proposal to adopt staged consultation distances, which would mean more stringent planning restrictions immediately adjacent to the pipelines with fewer planning restrictions applying as the distance increases.

Restrictions are likely to vary depending on the land use and area of the proposed development. In addition, there is 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.

For further information, please contact Andrew Bridge on 01530 412821 or email andrew.bridge@fishergerman.co.uk

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