THIS week’s controversial decision by Gedling Borough Council to grant planning consent to a proposed crematorium and cemetery at Catfoot Lane Lambley is already the subject of a legal challenge.
Ian Basely, planning consultant for opposition group CCOG, says that Gedling did not inform the correct authorities, specifically the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government’s department, to seek an opinion on the proposed development. This, he says, should have been sought and should have formed part of the report in the same way that Nottinghamshire County Council opinions were included.
The result, he says, is that the planning officer’s report was incomplete and that Gedling Borough Council (GBC) was in breach of its obligations.
Because the outcome of the planning committee meeting has not yet been ratified, there is still time for Gedling to seek an opinion, or for the Secretary of State to ‘call in’ the case for review. According to CCOG, once the decision has been ratified it will be more difficult for GBC to do this, so the group is mobilising its supporters to send letters to the National Planning Control Unit to ask for its intervention.
The group has created a pro-forma letter which it plans to distribute locally tomorrow (Saturday). A copy of that letter is available here in Word (.doc) format, along with a copy of Peter Baguley’s letter to Mr Basely (pdf format) which is referred to in the pro-forma letter.
These pro-forma letters can be completed and sent either by post to the National Planning Control Unit address provided or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
Download the pro-forma letter (Word doc) here:
The full text of the letter to NCPU is reproduced below, for anybody that may prefer to simply copy and paste:
[Insert name and address]
National Planning Control Unit
5 St Philips Place
10 May 2013
Proposed crematorium and cemetery on land north of The Lighthouse, Catfoot Lane, Lambley
Local Planning Authority [Gedling Borough Council] reference: 2012/0616
I refer to the above planning application which Members of Gedling Borough Council’s Planning Committee resolved to approve (9 votes to 8 – including the Chair who was for the development) at Wednesday night’s meeting.
At the time of writing, the formal decision has not yet been issued.
In accordance with The Town and Country Planning (Consultation) (England) Direction 2009, a local planning authority must notify the Secretary of State if it intends to approve an application for certain types of development – i.e if departing from the Development Plan.
One such category of development affected by the above is Green Belt development where:
(a) the provision of a building or buildings where the floor space to be created by the development is 1,000 square metres or more; or
(b) any other development which, by reason of its scale or nature or location, would have a significant impact on the openness of the Green Belt.
Whilst the proposed crematorium would have a gross floor area of 522 square metres (and therefore does not exceed the threshold in criteria (a) above), the various car parking areas and driveways would cover an area of approximately 4140 square metres, resulting in a total developed area of just under 0.5 of a hectare.
The development of a substantial commercial building (and chimney), associated surface infrastructure and lighting on a prominent, sloping, presently undeveloped agricultural field must, on any analysis, comprise development which, by reason of its scale or nature or location, would have a significant impact on the openness of the Green Belt as referred to in the aforementioned 2009 Direction.
We have become aware that the Council, contrary to the 2009 Direction, did not notify the Secretary of State that they intended to approve the application.
The Council’s Head of Planning seeks to explain why the Council did not notify the Secretary of State (letter attached). However:
1. Though the letter replying to our professional representative says the conclusion was that there would be no significant effect on openness, that is simply a summary/paraphrase of the Officers Report.
2. It completely overlooks the fact that the Officers Report assessment conflates two issues – namely the actual impact on openness (which, although a matter of subjective judgment, is a fixed issue which is entirely separate from the proportionality of the development to the proposed use (the fact that it is no bigger than it needs to be says nothing about whether it is still enormous!)) and very special circumstances (VSC). VSC requires the Council to put the harm on one side of the scales, and benefits on the other. To do this, you have to decide how great the harm is. The fact that there are VSC tells you nothing about impact on openness: there could be very little impact on openness, but if there was no good reason for the development there would still not be VSC. Conversely, there could be massive harm to openness, but if the development was essential in the national interest there could still be VSC.
3. The Officers Report advises that the harm to openness is mitigated by the hedgerows and proposed planting. Once again, this confuses two quite separate aspects: impact on openness and harm to visual amenity. Everyone knows (or should know) that openness can be affected whether or not you see it.
4. The Council’s analysis of harm to openness is therefore fundamentally flawed, to the extent that it cannot be relied upon to support the conclusion that there is no significant harm to openness such that it is not necessary to refer the matter.
We are firmly of the opinion that the application raises serious matters of a national, county (i.e. more than ‘local’ importance) importance requiring the matter to be called-in for determination by the Secretary of State.
Given that the Council have not to date notified the Secretary of State of their intention to approve the application – and particularly given the imminent issue of this decision, the NPCU is formally requested to issue a stop notice/order preventing the Council from issuing the decision until the Secretary of State has had sufficient time to consider the pertinent facts.
The above points are made with the benefit of having received Senior Queen’s Counsel’s advice on the matter.
The NPCU’s intervention at this stage would prevent the inevitable Judicial Review which will be initiated as a direct consequence of the formal issue of the decision and should therefore be given the utmost and urgent consideration.
I therefore look forward to hearing from you shortly.