Permission Granted for Watermead Crematorium, Aylesbury

Impact Planning Services (IPS) has provided planning consultancy support to Westerleigh Group Ltd (Crematoria Management Ltd) successfully preparing, submitting and negotiating planning applications for the development of Crematoria within the Test Valley (Hampshire) in 2015, Royal Wootton Bassett (Wiltshire) in 2017 and Fladbury near Pershore (Wychavon) also in 2017. A request was received from Westerleigh to assist in responding to the decision of the Court of Appeal to quash a planning permission granted by Aylesbury Vale District Council (AVDC) for a new crematorium to service the local community. . IPS has considerable “in house” experience of crematoria development from the early 1990s.

Following an earlier unsuccessful High Court challenge by the Watermead Parish Council, the decision was taken to continue with the development, the consequence being that the crematorium building was substantially under construction by the time of the later Court of Appeal judgement.  That later judgement quashed the permission on the grounds that the District Council had failed to apply the sequential and exceptions tests correctly in reaching the decision to grant planning permission. IPS was not involved with the original submission of the planning application.

However, once appointed, IPS managed the co-ordination of various consultants and carried out close liaison with the AVDC planning officers and the Environment Agency throughout the resubmission process to overcome the fundamental reason behind the quashing of the planning permission. This was due to the fact that the District Council misapplied national planning policy for development in ‘areas at risk of flooding’, in particular the ‘sequential test’ and failed to attend to the policy lawfully. It is important to note the words of Justice Lindblom in his judgment at paragraph 51:

 ‘With this in mind, I do not think it can be said either that the same outcome would have been “highly likely” if the decision had been taken lawfully, or, as Mr Elvin submitted (in paragraph 39 of his skeleton argument), that it would be “highly unlikely” to be different if the planning permission is quashed and the district council is given the opportunity to consider the application again. Contrary to Mr Elvin’s submission (ibid.), there is, in my view, a “realistic prospect” that the decision on re-determination would be different’.

This represented a significant task as the defined area to be assessed in the preparation of a sequential test was extensive. IPS with Westerleigh considered over 1600 alternative sites within and close to the AVDC area. IPS made use of their GIS software in this search and report which was one of the most comprehensive sequential tests undertaken. Critically the research and analysis were accepted by AVDC and the Environment Agency.

The outcome was a resolution to defer and delegate to officers for Approval which was decided by AVDC on 18th April 2018. The Secretary of State declined to call the application in on the 12th November 2018, for a second time remaining consistent following the original consideration of the application in 2014 when the Secretary of State declined on 19th March 2015 not to call the application in at that time. As a result of this AVDC issued the planning permission on 11th December 2018.

This proposal has been fully constructed and is ready to open. These unique circumstances represented a significant challenge and IPS is proud to have assisted with the development of such a valuable community facility and is delighted with the outcome after a very comprehensive piece of work and robust response to the sequential and exceptions tests which has stood the scrutiny of the ADVC, the Environment Agency and the Court of Appeal.