Council mulls options after crematorium refusal

via RBBC planning site

The borough council is considering its options after its plans for a crematorium in Woodhatch were recently turned down by its own planning committee.

Reigate & Banstead Borough Council had been hoping that the scheme, located just over the road from Earlswood Lakes, would generate income for the authority while also filling what it said was a need for a crematorium within the borough.

But in late September the council’s planning committee refused permission for the project, on the basis of harm to the green belt and a lack of “very special circumstances” that would outweigh that harm, “including a robust demonstration of need or alternative site assessment”.

The plans would also have had an unacceptable impact on biodiversity and ecological potential at the site, the committee decided.

As to what will happen next, that topic came up at the council’s most recent overview and scrutiny committee, on 21 October.

Conservative Cllr Tim Archer, giving an update as portfolio holder for investment and companies, said that the council was considering “next steps”.

Asked for more details by Green councillor Sue Sinden, Cllr Archer said it was “very early days” but that possibilities ranged from “packing up the project and walking away, though to other options around having a think about what we might do on the back of the feedback from the planning committee that we received”.

He said that would include thinking “about those particular planning issues that were of concern to the committee and what that might mean for the particular proposition that we put forward”.

“I’m not really in a position at this point to say much more than that, but of course there are clearly a couple of options ahead of us that we need to carefully think through,” Cllr Archer added.

Another Green, Cllr Jonathan Essex, asked how much the project had cost to get to the planning stage.

Cllr Archer replied that he had that information, but that it was not appropriate to discuss it in the section of the meeting open to the public.

Earlier in October, in answer to a similar question from about costs, Cllr Archer said: “Reports on the project have been considered by the appropriate council committees at key stages, including financial information, which currently remains commercially sensitive.

“If a project was to progress at some point in the future, we will need to tender for contracts for further work and do not want to prejudice quotes or costs for that work by putting financial informtion into the public domain.

“Financial information not considered to be, or that is no longer, commercially sensitive, will be published as per requirements in due course.”

The council is known, from papers from other meetings, to have at one time set a reserve of £650,000 for the feasiblity costs.

Cllr Archer also said in early October, about the planning committee decision: “Naturally the project team is disappointed with the outcome because we felt we had a well-designed scheme that met the justification of need, but we accept the committee’s decision.

“The decision does however highlight the strength of the council’s democratic processes and demonstrates the organisation was effective in maintaining the ‘ethical walls’ that are in place, in the form of strict procedures and boundaries, between the project and planning functions throughout the planning process.

“The project team will now consider its options in light of the planning committee’s decision.”

Cllr Archer also confirmed that had the planning committee approved the plans, the council would have referred the decision to the Secretary of State, given the council’s roles in both applying for and determining the approval, and the green belt location.

Furse Landscape Architects Site area outlined in red (blue lines show RBBC landholding)
via RBBC planning site
via RBBC planning site
via RBBC planning site

Minor edits were made to this article on 4 November.

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