At the Castle Point Cabinet meeting of Wednesday 19th June at Agenda item 5 (a) the council identified the work and subsequent report on “Off Site Emergency Planning Requirements around COMAH Sites in Essex “undertaken by County’s former Safer and Stronger Communities Policy and Scrutiny Committee (SSCC) and elected that the report be examined by Castle Point’s Environmental and Scrutiny Committee.
Clearly the County Scrutiny Committee have undertaken their task diligently given the amount of information surrounding the subject in question and it should quickly become apparent to Castle Point Council of the level of their responsibility and accountability in the decision making process in regards to the Societal Risk aspect when considering Spatial and Land Use Planning.
In regard to emergency planning the Civil Contingencies Act (CCA) distinguish 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 Buncefied 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 articles covering the right to life and the 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 NPPF and its Technical document.
It is seemingly the lack of emergency contingencies that would support, should it be necessary, the evacuation of the community of Canvey Island that gives the most concern to its residents and calls into question the reasoning of the proposal for further housing development.
Emergency plans will only work effectively if the public understands the risks and how to respond to them, clearly the Community Risk Register, having identified the significance of a site specific incident, should promote the requirement for much more detail to be given to the public on what may happen and what they should do.
Castle Point Council would do well to commend the work undertaken by County and embrace its recommendations. It is essential that accountability and responsibility is fully understood and that action for example to ensure that it formulates a Persons at Risk Register is undertaken, so as to be compliant with Civil Contingencies Secretariat guidance, so to ensure that vulnerable people are fully accounted for when considering emergency preparedness, in doing so that Emergency Planners may have a greater understanding of their responsibilities when considering the viability of planning applications.
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