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Health and Safety Bureaucracy Endangers Desperately Needed New Homes in London

Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has today warned that over 16,000 desperately needed new homes in London could be lost because of ‘over cautious’ changes to planning advice by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The HSE has proposed new risk assessments for planning applications surrounding "hazardous installations" - mainly gasometers - along with existing changes to how land around these installations is used.

Restrictions on this land, otherwise suitable for the development of housing or employment space, could lead to the loss of around 16,000 new homes and 12 hectares of employment land.

The Mayor has commissioned independent research which concludes that there is no evidence of serious risk associated with gasometers in London - but that despite this, there will be a significant increase in the number of planning applications opposed by the HSE. There hasn’t been a major incident or loss of life as a result of a gasometer accident in at least 70 years, the period covered by available records.

In his letter to the HSE the Mayor said:

‘At a stroke you are wiping out good housing for 40,000 Londoners, many of them in the direst need. I wonder to what extent in reaching your decision, you factored in the fact that many of those 40,000 people are living in appalling conditions which have a dramatic impact on both their health and life chances.

‘Equally, in a city where many people suffer long-term unemployment or casual and insecure employment, your proposals will deprive Londoners of approximately 1,000 jobs.

‘I am left with the strong suspicion that your motivation in setting these new guidelines has simply been to protect yourselves, rather than make any serious analysis that balances this minuscule risk against the very real and appalling loss of housing and employment for Londoners.

‘I suspect that staff at the Health and Safety Executive have good jobs and are well housed. It’s a pity you did not spend a little time considering those people who are not as lucky as you are. It is decisions like this that actually discredit the very real need for genuine health and safety protection. You have my assurance I will do everything possible to overturn this latest decision by your barmy bureaucrats.’

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