The celebration that Canvey Islanders can take comfort that there are suitable for purpose emergency evacuation plans, in place, that deals with either a serious incident emanating from one of the hazardous substance storage sites or the breach of our sea defence, is premature.
Clearly the Essex County Scrutiny Committee challenged to look into the County’s and Borough’s preparedness have undertaken their task diligently and it is understandable that it has taken two years to conclude given the complexity of the subject in question, that making provisions for all members of the community is a significant element of an emergency plan.
With regards to emergency planning the Civil Contingencies Act distinguishes between generic and specific plans. Similarly, in relation to the duty to have arrangements to warn, inform and advise the public, the regulations recognise that these may be generic or specific. Which arrangements are chosen will depend on the type of emergency being planned for and the particular circumstances within a locality.
Given the known ramifications of a Buncefield type incident and the Actual Risk of the flooding of Canvey Island either by breach or over topping identified by the Castle Point Council SFRA 2010 this should alert the Authorities Emergency Planners to the fact that the only known plan available to the community of Canvey Island of Go-in, Stay in and Tune in, is in some cases now overwhelmingly inappropriate.
Both County and Castle Point Council are aware that they are under a duty to comply with the Civil Contingency Act and a failure to do so will leave both Authorities exposed to a legal challenge. The risk is being found to be unprepared for foreseeable incidents culminating in greater property damage or, worse still, the increase in personal injury and death. In such circumstances, the Human Rights Act could be engaged and individuals who suffer as a result of the Authorities failure to implement appropriate emergency planning strategies could have, (arising under breaches of Article 2 – right to life and article 8- right to peaceful enjoyment of family life) a case.
Land Use Planning and Emergency Planning are intrinsically linked particularly when there is a possibility that planning aspiration comes into direct conflict with Article 12 of the Seveso Directives and the Technical document that supports the National Planning Policy Framework.
It is seemingly the lack of emergency contingencies that would support an Evacuation of the community of Canvey Island that gives the most concern to its residents. Emergency plans will only work effectively if the public understands the risks and their ramifications. Emergency planning Authorities having identified the significance of a site specific incident should make provisions for much more detail to be given to the public on what may happen and what they should do to protect themselves and others.
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