Green Belt crematorium appeals: Essington allowed, Wergs Hall dismissed

Released on 24 November 2017

South Staffordshire council news

Following a joint inquiry that considered two separate crematorium proposals in South Staffordshire, communities secretary Sajid Javid has gone against his inspector's advice by deciding to allow the scheme with the greater catchment area.

The inquiry dealt with two separate proposals for new crematoria, on sites about 10 miles apart, in the green belt north of Wolverhampton. All parties agreed that neither proposal would fall under any of the four exceptions to green belt development restrictions listed in the NPPF (National Planning Policy Framework), and would therefore require very special circumstances to go ahead. The parties also agreed that there is a “compelling need" for one new crematorium in the area. In light of this, Javid agreed with inspector John Braithwaite's decision to determine the two proposals together, “exercising planning judgement between them".

There was considerable difference between the catchment areas of the two proposed developments. The 'Essington' scheme, as it was referred to, would provide a facility to 51,695 people within a driving distance of 30 minutes. The 'Wergs' scheme, on the other hand, would provide for only 22,726 people within the same parameters.

Braithwaite afforded little weight to the different catchment areas. Instead, he focused on the historic and environmental benefits of the Wergs scheme, which would enhance the parkland setting of the nearby grade II listed Wergs Hall.

Javid disagreed, considering that allowing the Wergs scheme would not be the only way to achieve the environmental enhancements to Wergs Hall. The benefit of increased capacity offered by the Essington scheme, on the other hand, would be a direct public benefit that could not be achieved any other way.

In the planning balance, Javid agreed with Braithwaite's finding that the very special circumstances required for green belt development existed in terms of relieving pressure on the area's existing crematorium, which operates above capacity at certain times of year. However, he disagreed with his recommendation, ruling that the Essington scheme's ability to serve more people outweighed the heritage benefits of the Wergs scheme, which could be achieved by other means. As a result, the Wergs scheme was dismissed, and the Essington scheme was allowed.

Words by Matt Moody. Article originally appeared on The Planner.

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