The HSE has launched a new Land Use Planning Web App and Improved Advice Service. PHPD finds out more.
In July 2015 HSE and the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) jointly launched a new Land Use Planning Advice web app. This allows developers and others to make enquiries related to any plot of land, and enabling Planning Authorities to obtain HSE’s advice directly.
Providing access to HSE’s land use planning expertise at the pre-application stage simplifies and streamlines the process, reducing the likelihood of unnecessary costs, delays and confrontations with developers.
HSL is the Science Directorate of HSE. PHPD asked Jacinta Atkinson, HSL’s Commercial Director, about the new service.
Q: The new web app was created in response to feedback from developers. What were the key areas of improvement that were identified?
A: For developers, the traditional planning application process can entail spending time, money and effort on submitting an application, only for it to encounter delays in the consultation stages because the proposed development encroaches upon a ‘consultation zone’ around a major hazard site. As a statutory consultee, we might then advise against development but, of course, by now the developer has already invested significantly in the project.
The new Planning Advice web app improves upon the conventional approach in three respects: it is quicker, easier and ultimately more cost-effective for developers to access land use planning information and advice before they submit an application.
The new app allows developers to be apprised of HSE’s likely assessment of an application early in the planning process. This means that they can modify their plans, if necessary, at a far lower cost than in the past. If the app indicates that HSE will advise against a particular proposal it will generate a document detailing the reasons for this advice; this provides the developer with valuable guidance for any subsequent proposal.
Q. What type of information is available on the Planning Advice web app?
A: The app provides a variety of information both to developers making pre-application enquiries and to Planning Authorities entering into a formal consultation once a planning application has been submitted.
Registered users can select the area of land for development by entering map co-ordinates or a post code into an interactive map. Using the map tool they can then zoom in and ‘draw’ the boundaries of up to five proposed developments. After entering any supplementary details, the user can ‘submit’ their plan and in response the app will provide information that either:
- HSE has no land use planning interest in the specified plot
- HSE ‘has an interest’ because the proposed site lies within the consultation zone of a hazardous installation
- the proposed site lies within the area identified in a Safeguarding Plan of a licensed explosives site, or
- the proposed development falls within both the Safeguarding Plan area of a licensed explosives site and the consultation distance of a Hazardous Installation or pipeline.
Whilst the web app provides information on many standard types of development, for more complex proposals – for example large, mixed use proposals – a dedicated team is on hand to provide expert consultancy.
Q. What additional features and support will users benefit from?
A: The Planning Advice web app allows both individual or group access. This is particularly useful for Planning Authorities or large organisations which may require more than one person to view or manage a particular development proposal.
Different permissions and administration rights can be assigned to each member of a group so that, for example, the ability to purchase advice via the app is restricted only to budget holders.
The details of every planning enquiry made are recorded and listed by the app for future reference, whilst incomplete enquiries can be returned to and completed later as progress is automatically saved.
The online web app service is accessible at any time, but users who have questions or need help with using the service can also gain dedicated support from HSE’s Land Use Planning advice team.
Q. How quickly can advice be obtained?
A: Both for Planning Authorities and for anyone else seeking to develop land, HSE’s Planning Advice web app can provide quick, or even immediate, answers to queries relating to land for purchase or development.
It tells an enquirer whether there is any requirement for them to consult HSE regarding their land use plan, provides the option to find out what HSE’s advice would be for a proposed development, and offers increased access to HSE’s assessment tools and techniques, simplifying and speeding up the process.
A consultancy service is also available to provide expert advice regarding more complex proposals which fall beyond the remit of the web app, or in instances where HSE might engage with a developer to consider a proposal could be amended which would lead HSE to reconsider its advice.
Q. Is there a cost to use the service?
A: The Planning Advice web app offers two tiers of service. The first tier is provided entirely free of charge and provides enquirers with confirmation as to whether their proposed development falls within an HSE consultation zone of a major hazard site, an Explosive Safeguarding Zone or a major accident hazard pipeline. This confirmation and any supplementary advice is offered as a PDF file which can be viewed, saved or printed by the enquirer.
Should the web app determine that a proposed development lies within an HSE consultation zone the enquirer may optionally pay a nominal fee to access the second tier of the web app’s service. For this, they will receive a report which provides indicative details of HSE’s advice regarding the proposed development.
The information contained within this report can potentially save a developer considerable time and money, since it enables them to decide, at an early stage of the planning process, whether to pursue a development, modify their proposal or abandon it altogether before significant investment in the project has been made.
Q. What feedback have you had from users of the new service?
A: Initial feedback from users has been enthusiastic; the example below is typical of the comments we are receiving:
“The HSE’s land use planning app has been very helpful in relation to the speed of the result we get. Generally it is a ‘no interest’ result so I can print this off and it’s available to my colleagues instantly. However, when it has been a ‘hazard’ result, I needed to request a hazard boundary plan. The tri-coloured plan I was sent was perfect, and if this could be offered up as a matter of course that would be great.” Lisa Simmons, Legal Dept., Gladman Developments
We have also embarked upon a series of demonstrations to local authorities who will use the web app to generate HSE’s advice as part of the formal planning application approval process. Their interaction with the web app is almost identical to that of commercial users and their feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Beginning in October 2015 we are attending industry events around the country including UK Construction Week, Construction News Summit 2015, the London Property Summit and the Scotland Build Expo 2015. Visitors can see the new Land Use Planning app in action and are invited to give us further useful feedback.
For more information visit www.hsl.gov.uk