Green space has long been taken for granted, and has not needed to be defended or justified. Well that has all changed. In January 2021, Reigate and Banstead Borough Council submitted a planning application to build a crematorium on New Pond Farm, Woodhatch, a valued Countryside Site included in the Borough's own Countryside Guide, and well used by the local community. The proposed development would have resulted in loss of allotments and playing fields (albeit a replacement proposal was proposed but lacked separate planning approval).

Woodhatch Green Spaces Preservation Group was formed, and robustly argued the site's value in terms of recreational benefits, bio-diversity and conservation interests.

The planning application was referred to Planning Committee for determination on the 29 September 2021. Several visiting Councillors spoke in support of the value of the site for recreational purposes, bio-diversity, and conservation purposes. The Planning Committee after some deliberation rejected the planning application.  The motion to reject was unopposed.

11 Members of the Planning Committee voted to reject the planning application!

Only 2 Members abstained from voting

No Members voted to approve!

In the event the application had been approved by the Council, following intervention by Crsipin Blunt MP for Reigate, the application would have been referred to the Secretary of State for consideration as to whether to 'call-in' the application for independent adjudication .

We are however pleased that the Planning Committee acknowledged the lack of robust demonstration of need and the extent of harm that would be caused, such harm not clearly outweighed by the need and refused the application. The primary position is that such matters should be determined at the Local Planning Authority level and the Secretary of State only intervenes in matters of more than local significance.

The threshold for inappropriate development on the Green Belt, is high and remains so. This was not only Green Belt, but allotments and playing fields, and if approved sets a worrying precedent. None of our valued green spaces would be safe!

Whilst the Council can appeal its own decision, such would only serve to emphasise that no green space within the borough is safe.

Reasons for Refusal: 

  1. The proposed development would be inappropriate within the Metropolitan Green Belt and harmful to its openness.  Further harm would result by virtue of the loss of the land for open recreation and the loss of allotments.  In the absence of very special circumstances to outweigh this harm, including a robust demonstration of need or alternative site assessment, the proposal would be contrary to Policies CEM1, NHE4, NHE5 and INF2 of the Development Management Plan 2019, Policies CS3 and CS12 of the Core Strategy 2014 (reviewed 2019) and advice contained within the National Planning Policy Framework 2021.
  2. The proposed development, by virtue of extent of development and associated habitat loss within the designated Site of Nature Conservation Importance and Biodiversity Opportunity Area would have an unacceptable adverse impact on biodiversity and the ecological potential of the site, contrary to Policy CEM1, NHE2 and NHE4 of the Development Management Plan 2019, Policy CS2 of the Core Strategy 2014 (reviewed 2019) and advice contained within the National Planning Policy Framework 2021.