Environment and Planning Act

Calculating focus areas for environmental safety

Commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, Witteveen+Bos, together with partner agency AVIV, has mapped the 'focus areas for environmental safety' for about 500 Seveso and non-Seveso establishments. These are companies that use and/or store larger quantities of hazardous substances. This exercise took place in the context of the Environment and Planning Act, which came into force in the Netherlands on January 1, 2024.

With this Act, the rules for spatial development have been merged. As a result, the physical living environment is better and more insightfully protected and utilized. Part of the new law is the introduction of the concept of environmental policy, which takes over the existing domain of external safety.

External safety deals with the risks that humans and the environment may face from the use, storage and transport of hazardous substances. The previous policy used, among other things, the rather technical concept of group risk.


This representation is abstract and difficult to understand for both citizens and administrators and therefore not easy to include in an integral and balanced consideration of choices in the living environment. Also, this consideration only takes place in the final phase of the planning procedure.

Therefore, the concept of group risk has been replaced by 'focus areas for environmental safety'. Focus areas simplify the planning procedure by providing a geographical representation of areas around hazardous activities that are registered in advance at https://www.registerexterneveiligheid.nl.

Figure 1: Schematic representation of the possible effects of a source of risk.

Within these focus areas, incidents involving fire, explosions or toxic substances are possible and thus require administrative attention to protect local residents. Consider the formulation of additional environmental and building measures aimed at increasing the self-rescue of local residents or more effective disaster relief. The municipality can therefore take this into account at an early stage in decision-making.

Uniform work process

This assignment was carried out in accordance with the RIVM (National Institute for Public Health and the Environment) step-by-step plan. Because of the size of the work and the required data, it was chosen to perform the calculations automatically.

As a result, a uniform work process for delivery of the existing, licensed data also had to be developed. We achieved this by using a Relatics environment. Based on the data in Relatics, our experts could then run the developed scripts to generate the areas of interest.

In addition to the technical work, we trained the specialists of the competent authorities in the use of Relatics. This also to achieve proper control of the results. Because of the duration of the project (2.5 years), the W+B team additionally developed an online dashboard for stakeholders. This provided quick insight into the current status of the calculations and which competent authorities were fulfilling their tasks.

Figure 2: Example of calculated areas of concern for environmental safety.

Simpler and more transparent

At the request of the business community, the calculated focus areas were also made transparent in separate reports per individual company. This allowed not only the government parties, but also the companies to prepare themselves well for the arrival of the focus areas for environmental safety. Partly as a result of this preparation, an improved calculation method was adopted in 2023, and through this project Witteveen+Bos and AVIV contributed to the new policy on environmental safety. 

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