What is happening with the crematorium planning application?

05/08/2021

Despite the planning application having been submitted January 2021 and two rounds of public consultation, referral to the planning committee for determination has not yet occurred.  The latest public consultation closed on the 27 May 2021, the Planning Officer assigned confirmed to WGSPG that, as of the 30 June, he was in the process of writing up his report for the committee, prior to him subsequently leaving RBBC employment (no prior warning or indication provided).

So, what is happening with the application?  Well to be frank, we do not have the answer to that question, the position is somewhat unclear.  We had a reasonable expectation the application would have been referred to committee by now, however we can only speculate as to why it has been delayed.  Below is what we know and we hope is helpful, pending clarification from RBBC planning team.

27 May 2021 - last round of public consultation closed

30 June 2021 -  James Amos indicated in correspondence that he had commenced writing his report

July 2021 - Planning Officer has left RBBC employment reasons unknown

04 August 2021 - Planning Committee cancelled due to lack of cases to determine

01 September 2021 - Next scheduled planning committee 

Thank you for your outstanding support

We are delighted to report that to date there have been 459 representations objecting to this proposal to build on New pond Farm/Felland Fields.  This is a powerful expression of community support for protecting Woodhatch green belt, allotments and playing fields from development.

This loud local expression of opinion must we hope register strongly with the Council and members of the planning committee in due course who will make the final determination of the application.  To ensure our voices are heard, please spread the word, and encourage others to object if they have not already done so, thank you.

Further background and reasons this application should not be approved

We maintain the following reasons as to why this planning application should be refused:

Contrary to the Development Management Plan

1)  The DMP allowed for the allocation of sites for cemeteries and/or crematorium provision, NO such sites were allocated for development within the DMP for cemeteries or crematorium. 
A Needs assessment conducted in 2016 identified that the 'Need' test could not be established.

Unsubstantiated Need

2)  The 'Need' for a crematorium is unsubstantiated, and therefore contrary to policy CEM1
(page 76) of the Development Management Plan, where such applications must as a 'minimum' be supported by a 'robust' demonstration of need.

Wrong site/Alternative Sites Available

3)  The alternative site assessment report we consider has no planning value and failed to follow the recognised process.  The site was determined prior to the Alternative Site Assessment, the report was written to justify a decision already made within the Council.

Loss of Open Space, Playing fields and Allotments

4)  The proposed development will result in the loss of playing field provision, open space and allotments.

  • New pond Farm allotments - 13 full size plots and 10 half size plots - despite a waiting list!
  • The Paddock allotments - 3 half size plots

The supporting evidence lacked the required assessment and/or clarity on the proposal for replacement, and we consider is therefore contrary to the NPPF as below:

i) 99. Existing open space, sports and recreational buildings and land, including playing fields, should not be built on unless:

(a) an assessment has been undertaken which has clearly shown the open space, buildings or land to be surplus to requirements; or

(b) the loss resulting from the proposed development would be replaced by equivalent or better provision in terms of quantity and quality in a suitable location; or

(c) the development is for alternative sports and recreational provision, the benefits of which clearly outweigh the loss of the current or former use.

(2) https://www.gov.uk/guidance/national-planning-policy-framework/8-promoting-healthy-and-safe-communities

5)  Sport England as Statutory Consultee (the pitches having been in use within the last 5 years) has OBJECTED to the loss of playing fields, in accordance with Sport England's policy, which can be accessed via this link .

6)  Protected species surveys were not included with the application supporting evidence.  Great Crested Newts and Reptile/Amphibian surveys are required, and Surrey Wildlife Trust stated they should be completed pre-determination of the application to prevent breach of protected species laws.

The development will result in loss of at least two mature trees, substantial metres of established hedgerows and other shrubbery a haven for wildlife.

Surrey Wildlife Trust, and other Consultee comments can be accessed through the planning portal.

There remain other concerns, such as highway impact, access arrangements, and impact on bio-diversity, however these are to some extent addressed within the planning application documents and will be for the planning committee to consider and determine taking into account the arguments as a whole.

Our concerns are shared by others:

Other objectors to this proposal include the following:

  • Local MP - Crispin Blunt
  • Local Councillor - South Park and Woodhatch - Cllr Chandler
  • County Councillor - Cllr Baart
  • CPRE - the countryside charity
  • London Green Belt Council - Protecting London's Green Belt
  • Salfords and Sidlow Parish Council
  • Earlswood Lakes Steering Committee - Cllr Bramhall

Other Applications

A similar application for a new crematorium and associated landscaping in Tandridge District Council is awaiting determination by the Planning Inspector through the planning Public Inquiry process.

The Public Inquiry is scheduled to open on 10 August 2021.

Tandridge DC obtained a detailed Needs Assessment from CDS Group, and following that assessment accepts that 'Need' is established.  Tandridge DC assert that the application harms the green belt and views from the Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) nearby and such harm is not outweighed by the need.

Details can be found on Tandridge District Council's website: Planning reference - 2020/690

Two other proposal in Tandridge have been refused, Farleigh and Godstone.  No appeal submitted to date.

What happens next?

Exactly what will happen next remains somewhat unclear.  We had expected the application to have been referred to planning committee, that has not happened.  There is a possibly it may be referred for the September Committee, we are seeking clarification, and details of the new Planning Officer handling this case.

There remains a possibility of a further round of public consultation.  The duty to further consult is triggered where there is a material amendment to the substance of the planning application.  This is a planning application with a substantial public interest, and we would expect the council to consult further if additional supporting material relating to the outstanding issues above is submitted.  Time will tell.

When will we know the final outcome?

There may be a few more months possibly longer, until a final outcome is known.  Once the Planning Committee has determined the application, if approved, the application is referred to the Secretary of State before permission can be formally granted due to the application concerning inappropriate development on the green belt.

How you can help

Thank you to everyone for the support to date.  It is important that we continue as a community to robustly object to development on our green belt, open spaces, allotments, and playing fields.  If this application gains permission no green belt, allotments or playing fields are safe.  This could set a worrying precedent for the whole of the Borough not just Woodhatch.

We will send occasional newsletters about our campaign.  Please spread the word, and explain this is not a done deal, and this is the wrong site for such a development!