The High Court has quashed plans for what would have been one of the largest crematoriums in the UK. The proposal was approved by Cornwall Council last year despite hundreds of objections from local residents.
A controversial plan to build the Atlantic View Crematorium on a 5.8-hectare rural site next to the A39 at Poundstock, near Bude, was granted by the council’s strategic planning committee last November. After councillors voted to approve the proposal there were disappointed jeers from the public gallery at New County Hall / Lys Kernow in Truro with one objector, Colin Cleave, shouting “shambles, you do not know what you are doing”.
The new crematorium had been proposed on the basis of providing a facility for people in North Cornwall and Devon who currently have to travel long distances to Bodmin or Barnstaple to access their nearest crematorium. Applicant the Atlantic View Crematorium Consortium said that the Bodmin facility was operating at 130 per cent capacity as of 2019 and families were having to wait more than three weeks for services. They said that the demand was only expected to increase and that there was a need for a crematorium to serve people in North Cornwall.
However, objectors questioned the viability of the project and said that it was in the wrong location. They claimed that it could have a major impact on residents and on the tourism industry in the area.
Two local residents Gemma Watton and Jonathan Cameron challenged the council’s decision to allow the crematorium and following a judicial review at the High Court in London last week, judge Sir Duncan Ouseley found in their favour and quashed the permission.
The court found that the planning officer’s report gave a seriously misleading overall impression of the evidence concerning the project’s viability. The risk that the crematorium might not be fully used needed to be spelled out. The judge also found that the planning officer’s report in respect of the transport benefits of the plan was significantly misleading and expressed no clear conclusion as to whether the proposal complied with certain landscape and environmental protection policies.
In his report, Sir Duncan Ouseley said: “The question is whether the thrust of the [planning officer’s] report was significantly misleading. I consider that it did indeed accentuate the positive and downplay the negative. I consider that the report glossed over the significance of how far below the conventional assessment of need … the proposal fell.”
The High Court judge was critical of the “unwarrantedly dismissive approach of the council” while dealing with the matter and highlighted “serious errors” in the consideration of the need for the crematorium, its scale and location. He added that the planning report for councillors got itself “in a hopeless tangle”.
Ms Watton told us: “I’m disappointed in Cornwall Council – it shouldn’t have got to this. Yes, we’ve won but it’s a very sad situation. Council taxpayers’ money has been wasted. Cornwall Council will now have to pay out £70,000 in costs.
“What’s most disappointing about this is Cornwall Council was warned time and time again, not just by objectors but by experienced experts in crematoria and by solicitors.”
Sir John Maclure lives with his wife in nearby Widemouth Bay and together with over 300 others has been fighting the crematorium project since it was launched. He has written to Phil Mason, Cornwall Council’s strategic director for sustainable growth and development, who oversees planning issues.
Sir John says in his email: “As you are CEO of Cornwall Council Planning I would like to share with you my disbelief at the way the planning officer and seven members of the planning committee originally ‘nodded through’ the decision to pass this planning project. In company with MANY others, including some officials who are recognised experts in their specialist fields, several valid objections were brushed aside without any explanation and the resulting decision was a scandal. The planning officer actually advised against it in two early hearings and then, without a word of explanation why, in the final meeting supported it.
“I hope that these individuals concerned will be reprimanded and barred from any further planning committees. Yes, the judicial review quashed the decision, BUT it should NEVER have been reached in the first place and the further scandal is that the local residents, affected by this decision, could ONLY get it overturned by PAYING for a judicial review.”
A spokesperson for Cornwall Council said: “Residents are always given the opportunity to comment on planning applications. Objections to a planning application doesn’t mean that a planning application is automatically refused. All comments and considerations are assessed as part of the planning process and are weighed against national and local planning policy and guidance to then reach a conclusion.
“The matter was subject to a High Court challenge and whilst the council is disappointed with the outcome, at this stage we accept the court’s judgement as it is not in the public interest to challenge the matter further.”
You can read the full judicial review here. https://cornerstonebarristers.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/CO3452023-and-CO3482023-Watton-and-Cameron-v-Cornwall-approved-final-judgment.pdf