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Livingstone attacks 'barmy' Health and Safety Executive over planning guidance

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has described the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as 'barmy bureaucrats' and warned that its proposals to change planning advice could lead to the scraping of up to 16,000 new homes.

Livingstone said that 'over-cautious' proposed changes to the planning system by the HSE - which has proposed new risk assessments for planning applications surrounding 'hazardous installations' - will restrict the amount of land available for development.

The HSE proposal has been drawn up with particular reference to gasometers, which it believes are a hazard to surrounding developments.

But in a letter to the HSE, Livingstone said the planned restrictions would affect planning applications of 16,000 new homes and 12ha of 'employment land'.

In his letter 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.'

According to the mayor's office, there 'hasn't been a major incident or loss of life as a result of a gasometer accident in at least 70 years'.

by Max Thompson

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