Tandridge & Some Things We Observed...

13/09/2021

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

WGSPG News Update

The Tandridge Application(s) - Horizon Crematorium Oxted Road

A four-day Public Inquiry into the appeal by Horizon, following the refusal of their application by Tandridge DC concluded on the 14 August. Over the four days evidence was heard from the following:

Horizon's witnesses:

    1. Mr Bateman, Pegasus Group, Planning

    2. Mr Cook, Pegasus Group, Landscape and Visual Matters

Council's Witness:

    1. Mr Thurlow, Sole Practitioner Town & Country Planning Consultant, Planning

Appointed counsel:

    1. Tandridge DC was represented by Kate Olly of Landmark Chambers.

    2. Horizon was represented by Peter Goatley QC, No 5 Chambers.

Third Party Representations against the proposal were also made by Cllr Sayer, for The Oxted and Limpsfield Residents.

The decision of the assigned Planning Inspector, Jonathan Price BA(Hons)DipTP MRTPI DMS is awaited. We understand the decision is not expected prior to the 24 October 2021.

Full details of the Public Inquiry and key documents can be accessed via this link.  

Some Points We Observed

The following may be of interest:

Horizon asserted that they were advised by telephone on the 07 May 2021 their new but almost identical application would be proceeding to the Planning Committee on the 10th June, with a recommendation for approval. An extension of time requested for service of the Statement of Common Ground in the Appeal, which Horizon agree. However, Horizon state the Council then did a volte face, assigned a new Planning Officer and by the 10 June a decision had been made to delay the referral to the Planning Committee. The reason given being legal reasons.

Some key points we noted from the Council's Closing Statement:

  • The Council does accept that need can be demonstrated for more crematoria capacity to serve the district.

  • The issue is about how that need is best served.

  • The Council's view is that this proposal constitutes substantial harm to the setting of the AONB.

  • The proposal will introduce substantial built form and hard standing into the foreground of views from the site towards the AONB, where currently the area is open countryside with uninterrupted views towards the AONB.

  • The Site Search Appraisal is not robust and should not be relied upon.

  • The necessary 'very special circumstances' to overcome this inappropriate development in the green belt are not demonstrated.

Horizon was represented by Peter Goatley QC, No 5 Chambers. Some key points from Horizon's Closing Statement:

  • The council upon receipt of a report from CDS accepted that there was need for a crematorium in the district and that that need is best met at the Oxted appeal site.

  • The Council never questioned the Site Search Appraisal through their consideration of this application. At no point in the process was a criticism made of the approach. It was not criticised in the Officer's report, or included in the reasons for refusal or referred to in the Statement of Case.

  • Cllr Sayers (Tandridge DC) suggestion that the Reigate and Banstead proposal would better meet need, is completely illusory.

Of interest to WGSPG was a comment made by Cllr Sayers to the Planning Inspector, that the Reigate and Banstead proposal was scheduled to be referred to RBBC Planning Committee on the 01 September (despite there being clear issues still remaining in our view).

In addition, Horizon have confirmed in their recent response to the RBBC latest Consultation, that the very afternoon the Tandridge Public Inquiry closed, Andrew Benson Head of RBBC Planning Department e-mailed the Planning Inspector with a fact update, confirming the RBBC application would be referred to Committee 01 September. We agree with Horizon that this would seem to be an unusual intervention into a public inquiry in a neighbouring district for a competitor crematorium.

The Woodhatch application however was then not referred to the Planning Committee and we await further developments.

WGSPG will continue to monitor developments regarding all the Tandridge applications. In addition to the Oxted proposal, it is suggested that the proposal in Farleigh is also likely, if not already, proceeding to Appeal.

Freedom Of Information Request/Environmental Act

WGSPG have requested various reports and information from Reigate and Banstead Council, including:

  • Business case

  • Feasibility Studies

  • Financial viability report

The Council has so far only released heavily redacted copies of the Business Case, written by RBBC, and the Business Case Review written by Dunn &Co. Large sections have been redacted and the viability report and feasibility study remain withhold. The Council maintains their stance that the public interest in maintaining an exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the reports.

Our request has progressed to the Internal Review stage, and if the response remains unsatisfactory the next stage will be referral to the Information Commissioner's office.

Status of RBBC Planning Application:

The most recent round of further consultation expired on the 27 August 2021, a date this application will be referred to the Planning Committee is still awaited. We anticipate that we will receive only 5 days prior notice.

In the meantime, documents continue to be uploaded to the Council's website, the process of following the numerous and voluminous amendments is extremely difficult and a somewhat laboured process. Identifying material amendments has become almost impossible. WGSPG continue to review and will respond further when the 'drip feed' appears to have reached a natural end.

There remain several issues with this proposal that the applicant has we consider failed to adequately, if at all , address, issues such as:

  • Loss of open space

  • Replacement playing field, full mitigation strategy and clarification regarding securing planning application for the proposed replacement

  • Loss of allotment plots

  • Impact on informal recreation and opportunity to enjoy an active healthy lifestyle

  • Access issues

  • Future expansion plans (if any)

When all issues are taken into account we maintain the site is inappropriate and not sustainable in the long term. We maintain the Council has failed to demonstrate need and we agree with Tandridge regarding the question as to if there is need, how is that best served. The Woodhatch sites has so many constraints, that we still consider makes this site unsuitable.

The list above is not exhaustive, there are many more reasons why this site is unsuitable in our view!

We remind everyone that it is not our aim to deny or frustratethe efforts of the council to generate investment income, but to urge the council to divert such opportunities to sites that would benefit more, and would not result in the loss of community facilities, wildlife and fauna. This is a very special site that already serves not only the immediate local community but others who visit on a daily basis to partake in informal exercise, particularly dog walking.

THANK YOU!

It appears we are not at the end of this tortuous process, WGSPG would like to thank the sterling efforts made by all who oppose this application.

We appreciate the efforts of hundreds of local residents who wrote to oppose the development. The very fact that so many are prepared to stand up to protect their local environment is a testament to the strength of feeling that this issue generated.

It is possible for the voice of the people to be heard.

The system may be inherently stacked against us, but we remain committed in the task we set out to achieve, and that is to save our local Green Belt from inappropriate development.