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Oil fire prompts review call

The board investigating the Buncefield disaster has called for an urgent overhaul of planning processes around major hazard sites.

Thousands of homes were damaged and 42 people injured when a tank at the Buncefield oil depot, near Hemel Hemsptead, overflowed in 2005.

In its latest report, the Buncefield Major Incident Investigation Board has called for “a wide-ranging review of the system for land use planning around major hazard sites to begin without delay”.

The board said the current system had “a number of shortcomings” and added it had been “developed in a piecemeal fashion”. It is headed by Lord Newton of Braintree, a former leader of the House of Commons, and includes the head of the Health and Safety Executive’s offshore division, Taf Powell, and Environment Agency director of operations Dr Paul Leinster.

The HSE must be consulted at an earlier stage in the development of construction plans, it said.

The news comes as Surrey County Cricket Club awaits a date - likely to be this autumn - for a public inquiry into its proposed £35 million redevelopment of Brit Oval in south London.

Fears of an explosion have delayed its plans. The HSE was worried the work is too close to the Kennington gasometers.

French firm Coteba has been in line for the £35 million deal since last summer.

FROM THE REPORT:

“The national land use planning system around major hazard sites must balance the sometimes opposing pressures of local and national strategic economics. In our view the planning system around high-hazard sites has not adapted sufficiently in response to these pressures.”

“We call on the key stakeholders – some of whom have had little involvement to date – to demystify the concept of societal risk and to envisage a future system where they support the planning authority in coming to transparent decisions on what level of societal risk can be accepted in a planning application.”

“Because any transition will take time, we want to see both the wide-ranging review of the organisation and the more detailed technical recommendations taken forward in parallel. We consider the review should begin without delay if we are to have a system fit for 21st century circumstances within a reasonable time frame.”