Plans for a new crematorium on land of Oxted Road in Oxted, Surrey, have been allowed on appeal.
The Green Belt development proposed by Horizon Cremation Ltd for a crematorium with ceremony hall, memorial areas and garden of remembrance had been refused by Tandridge District Council in October 2020.
But in his ruling on September 30, Planning Inspector Jonathan Price, on behalf of the Secretary of State, allowed the appeal subject to conditions.
The main issues of the appeal were:
- the proposal’s effects in respect of the purposes of Green Belt policy
- effects on the character and appearance of the area including the setting of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
- whether the Green Belt and any other harm would be clearly outweighed by the need for, and benefits of, the proposal so as to amount to the very special circumstances required to justify the scheme
Pegasus were asked to assist MDA associates in respect of the appeal and give evidence on behalf of the appellant. Tony Bateman gave evidence in respect of planning and Andrew Cook and Jeremy Peachey dealt with the Landscape matters.
As the development was inappropriate development in the Green Belt it was necessary to show that there were Very Special Circumstances that would outweigh the substantial harm that such development would cause.
Evidence was produced to show that there was a very substantial need that could not be met by existing facilities and moving towards 2041 the population projections showed that this need was only going to get worse. The Inspector was of the view that:
‘Cremation facilities meet an essential community need which in this area is currently not being fully met, either quantitatively or qualitatively, with demand forecast to increase steeply. The proposal would make a significant contribution towards meeting this existing and growing need. This is a need to which I attach very substantial weight. Along with the incidental social, economic and environmental benefits the scheme would provide, I find that the other considerations in this case clearly outweigh the harm that I have identified. Accordingly, I consider that the very special circumstances exist which justify the development. The proposal would therefore accord with Green Belt Policy DP10, and the development plan as a whole, satisfying also national policy as set out in the Framework.”
With regard to landscape considerations, In his report on the effects of the proposal in respect of the purposes of Green Belt policy, the Inspector said: “The visual loss of openness would in my view be very localised and confined mainly to the immediate surroundings of the site.”
And he added: “The relatively small built footprint of the proposal would be comparable to the other lower density development in the vicinity. In all, the crematorium scheme would result in a relatively modest loss to the spatial extent of Green Belt openness.”
He concluded in respect of the AONB that:
‘The final part of Framework paragraph 176, introduced in the 2021 update, now addresses development within the setting of AONBs. The wording does not explicitly restrict development in order to preserve views of AONBs from land outside. It requires that development within the setting of an AONB should be sensitively located and designed to avoid or minimise adverse impacts on the designated areas. In my view, the low-profile crematorium design, with its disassembled mass and relatively small built footprint, set within the site contours with further tree screening, responds to these design and location requirements in relation to development in the AONB’s setting.”