Controversial plans to add a crematorium to a cemetery site at the foot of the Waseley Hills in Rubery have been approved after land owners appealed to the government to overturn the decision of Bromsgrove District Council.
After a long planning battle, the Government’s Planning Inspectorate accepted the appeal from H2Land – who were ‘third time lucky’ – yesterday. (Monday 1st July).
The plans – the developers’ third attempt to add a crematorium to an already approved cemetery development – were originally refused by Bromsgrove District Council in March 2018.
However, again for the third time, H2Land lodged an appeal with the government’s Planning Inspectorate to over turn the decision.
Some local residents and politicians have opposed the proposals, citing many reasons including: the impact on the Green Belt, increased traffic, threat to the site’s habitat and air pollution.
The plans will see the previously approved chapel building constructed with a reduced height and including crematorium facilities. The hardstanding on the site will also be reduced.
Despite recognising the effect on the Green Belt in her report, Inspector Zoe Raygen said that the proposed reduction in height of the chapel building for the crematorium plans would have a lesser effect then the previously accepted design for the chapel building.
The Inspector said that she did not feel there would be a detrimental increase in traffic to the area and that the layout of the site would allow for protection of the existing flora and fauna.
On air pollution concerns she said: “Given that this is a highly regulated process, that all crematoriums have to abide by, I have seen no substantive evidence to suggest that the operation of the building itself would cause material harm to air quality.”
After considering these and other objections raised, the Inspector allowed the appeal, meaning the crematorium plans can go ahead.
In her report conclusion, she wrote: “It is likely that the harm to the openness and purpose, would be lessened in this proposal […]. This, together with the compelling need that has been demonstrated for a new crematorium, means that other considerations in this case clearly outweigh the harm that I have identified. Looking at the case as a whole, I am satisfied that very special circumstances exist which justify the development.”
Richard Burden MP (Lab, Birmingham Northfield) said: “I am disappointed that the Planning Inspector has decided to allow the appeal to build this crematorium. I am worried about the impact that a crematorium will have on local roads and I reflected that concern in the submission I made to Bromsgrove Council and which they assured me was also available to the Inspector. The Inspector has disagreed and says she believes traffic is unlikely to be a major problem. I hope she is right about that but I continue to have my doubts.
“Either way it is important that the list of conditions that the Inspector has attached to her decision are fully complied with.”
Cllr Simon Morrall (Con, Frankley Great Park) said: “I am incredibly disappointed. Earlier this year I wrote a letter to the secretary of state expressing my disapproval that an appeal had been made in the first place. I attended the hearing on 11th June and raised serious concerns that the data and figures presented had been extremely vague. I felt so much was missing, particular from the Birmingham side where this development will have the greatest impact. I raised issues on traffic, public transport, the 63 bus route, emergency services from Hollymoor, protecting the greenbelt and the impact on the local environment. A map was also produced so I could show the wider area and demonstrate the limited road access.
“I feel a lot of this information has been skimmed over in the final document which has a lot of factual inaccuracies and discrepancies. The inspectorate acknowledges that it would damage the green belt, yet she still approved it? When it comes to traffic she claims nobody from Birmingham City Council was present? She also claims there is evidence to support a growing need for a crematorium, which is factually incorrect and well documented from the countless number of appeal hearings already concluded on this matter.
“The reoccurring theme throughout the document is “where was Birmingham City Council!?” and as a Councillor who’s party is in opposition on the Birmingham authority, my power is limited and when I tried to liaise with the Labour Party on this they refused to talk to me.
“I will continue to fight for the residents that I serve and I will be writing to the secretary of state to express my further disapproval, and lodge a formal compliant about the hearing, because I feel it wasn’t very balanced or well represented in any sense of the word.”
Cllr Peter McDonald (Lab, Rubery South) said: “It is a bad day for local democracy. The application had been turned down on three occasions and once at an earlier appeal; yet the applicant’s appeal was upheld.
“The concerns of local residents were dismissed and the views of the applicant were accepted: leaving local residents having to live with the havoc associated with a crematorium.
“It will also encourage other developers to apply for building on the greenbelt, putting surrounding land under threat of development.
“At the end of the day it makes you wonder why we have Planning Committee’s made up of elected local councillors, who on three occasions refused permission for a crematorium. It is a kick in the teeth for local democracy. “
“The result included a partial award of our costs, resulting from unreasonable behaviour by the Council, in refusing the planning application.
“Looking forward now, H2land is confident that the additional provision of the new Crematorium will deliver much needed additional capacity and contemporary facilities for bereaved families. This will allow for shorter waiting times, additional choice and longer service intervals that allow more personalised and discrete experiences for families in the most difficult of circumstances”
Waseley Hills Cemetery planning timeline
Permission was granted by Bromsgrove District Council for a cemetery at the site on New Inns Lane, Rubery, at the foot of the Waseley Hills, back in 2012. The addition of a chapel and a maintenance building was approved in 2014.
However, at that time, the application to include a crematorium on the site was turned down.
In 2016, a second amended application for a crematorium on the site was submitted. Hundreds voted in a B31 Voices poll, with just 30% in favour of the proposals.
After this second plan was refused, developers appealed to the government’s Planning Inspectorate to overturn the decision by Bromsgrove District Council (BDC) in early 2017.
However, in August of that year, government planning inspector R. C. Kirby concluded that the appeal should be dismissed on the grounds that the proposal to add a crematorium on the site:
- “[…] is inappropriate development in the Green Belt which is by definition harmful”
- “[…] would reduce the openness of the Green Belt, result in conflict with the purposes of including land within it, and adversely affect the character and appearance of the area”
- “did not present enough evidence to determine the possible risks to the biodiversity of the site.”
Third application refused
Developers sought to address the inspectors concerns with a third planning application to BDC in December 2017. However, in March 2018, after consideration and with continued objections raised by local residents and politicians, the application was yet again refused.
Unwilling to admit defeat, developers H2Land appealed to the Planning Inspectorate against this latest decision in April 2018.
The appeal was upheld by the Planning Inspectorate on 1st July 2019.