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Major Accident Hazards Bureau

Land use planning

Article 12 of the Seveso II Directive requires Member States to ensure that the objectives of preventing major accidents and limiting the consequences of such accidents are taken into consideration in their land-use planning policies. However, the Directive itself does not contain any detailed suggestion on how this should be done. In order to address this issue, a Technical Working Group (TWG 5) was set up in 1996, with the participation of representatives from the Member States nominated by their Competent Authorities, representatives from the relevant Federations of Industry and from the local authorities (e.g. associations of mayors). In 1999, after three years of work, Technical Working Group 5 issued a Guidance document in support to the implementation of Article12.

According to the mandate of the Group, these guidelines were descriptive, aiming at the dissemination of information on existing practices rather than the development of prescriptive methods and criteria. At that time, this guidance was considered sufficient by the Member States. However, in the present context this document appears to be more of a list of existing practices rather than actual guidelines.The recent accidents in Toulouse (France) and in Enschede (Netherlands) dramatically demonstrated the importance of land-use planning in mitigating the effects of major accidents. In its resolution of 3.10.2001 on the Toulouse accident, the European Parliament "calls urgently on the Member States to initiate an in-depth review of policies on regional and urban planning in the vicinity of risk sites, including as regards the fiscal aspects, in order to prevent any repetition of such disasters".

The European Commission and the Committee of the Competent Authorities (CCA) established under the Seveso II Directive also highlighted the importance of land-use planning.The Conference on "Major Industrial Hazards in Land-use Planning", held in Lille on 12-14 February 2002 showed a need for enhanced convergence, in particular in the field of risk assessment. Although the variety of approaches was not surprising to most participants, the conference emphasised that this variation was fairly substantial and the differences were often complex.

Currently, the practices and methodologies are so varied that it is difficult to compare land-use policies throughout the European Union or to defend against claims that they do not support a minimum standard across the Member States. The industry in general was also in favour of greater harmonisation. Understanding the variations, identifying the basic level of safety applied, while at the same time making the land-use planning approaches more transparent and understandable seems to be crucial for the implementation of Article 12.In the above described context it is proposed the (re)-establishment of a European Working Group on Land-use Planning (hereafter called the "Group"). Some elements of common concern that have to be tackled by the Group have already emerged at the Lille conference. Examples of such elements are consistency in the selection of technical data used in risk assessments and identification of accident scenarios, which will lead to greater understanding and convergence of what "suitable distance" is in the context of Article 12 of the Directive. Strategies to address existing situations can also be discussed in the Group.