Objectors’ hopes of blocking development of a new crematorium on a Green Belt site have been dashed after the High Court rejected arguments that the proposal was precluded by the terms of an Edwardian public health statute.
Planning consent for the development was initially refused by the local authority on grounds that it would be inappropriate in the Green Belt and would not respect the protected local landscape. However, following a public inquiry, a planning inspector upheld the developer’s appeal and granted conditional consent. In finding that very special circumstances justified the Green Belt development, he underlined the existing and growing community need for cremation facilities.
In mounting a judicial review challenge to the inspector’s decision, a local resident asserted that the inspector had failed properly to consider whether the project would contravene Section 5 of the Cremation Act 1902. With a view to protecting public health, the Act forbids construction of crematoria within 200 yards of any dwelling house without the written consent of occupiers.
The objector pointed out that the crematorium’s car park, access roads and memorial gardens would fall within the forbidden radius and asserted that, if the facility’s doors and windows were opened, they would also cross the 200-yard line.
Dismissing her challenge, however, the Court found that the Act’s definition of ‘crematorium’ did not extend to the proposed parking area, roads or gardens. The inspector was thus correct in law to find that the location of those elements of the proposed development would not contravene the statute.
There was no evidence that the opening of doors and windows would in any way materially affect the process of burning human remains. The developer had also provided an assurance that the scattering of ashes would not be permitted in the memorial gardens. The Court concluded that the Act presented no impediment to the delivery of the proposed development.