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Government nuclear policy and Nuclear Inspectorate concerns considered by Secretary of State in Call In Planning Decision

The Secretary of State has announced his decision in relation to a call in planning inquiry, which took place between October 2010 and January 2011. He has allowed an application for planning permission to develop housing by Cala homes near to the MOD nuclear facility in Aldermaston in Hampshire. It was the first time that the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (part of the HSE) had appeared at a planning inquiry in its 50 year existence.

The Decision is unusual and of note in that it considers a range of objections put by the HSE which related to the risk of radiation accidents, emergency preparedness and the implications of extant and emerging government nuclear policy on development proposals near nuclear licensed sites. The decision will be of interest to those considering the relevance of demographic criteria in planning determinations used by the HSE in relation to the assessment of development near to nuclear sites. It also provides a recent example of the Secretary of State's approach to the materiality and weight to be given to the proposed abolition of Regional Strategies in the Localism Bill before Parliament.

The Secretary of State determined that although risks to human health from radiation were real, the probability of a high dose arising were remote and that the emergency arrangements in place were adequate. On balance he considered that benefits of the proposed scheme outweighed the weight to be attached to the risk of a materially harmful radiation dose.

Tom Cosgrove appeared for the planning authority which supported the grant of permission. Russell Harris QC appeared for the HSE and Robert Griffiths QC for the applicant.

The Inspectors's report and the Secretary of State's decision letter can be viewed here.