Welwyn Hatfield Council crematorium plans quashed by High Court

PUBLISHED: 12:30 01 March 2018 | UPDATED: 12:30 01 March 2018

Hatfield's Columbarium section of Lawn Cemetery
Photo courtesy of Welwyn Hatfield Council

Hatfield's Columbarium section of Lawn Cemetery Photo courtesy of Welwyn Hatfield Council

Archant

After granting itself planning permission for a crematorium, Welwyn Hatfield Council has now had its plans quashed by a High Court ruling over a “legal error”.

The council wanted to demolish existing buildings at its Lawn Cemetery site and build a new chapel, crematory and car park.

It owns the 4.24 hectare site and, in line with one of its planning officer’s recommendations, granted itself planning permission in May last year.

But Crematoria Management Limited, which owns a commercial crematorium about 10 miles away in Broxbourne, objected.

•MORE: Rival crematorium owners take Welwyn Hatfield Council to court

And, upholding the company’s judicial review challenge today, a High Court judge ruled that the council had made a “legal error”.

The recently opened crematorium in Broxbourne is built to handle about 1,200 cremations annually.

And, before sanctioning its own project, Green Belt policy demanded that the council had to be satisfied there was a “need” for another crematorium in the area.

The judge ruled that, when considering need, the council simply failed to “factor in” the possibility that the commercial crematorium might have spare capacity.

“I do not accept that the capacity of the Broxbourne site was an irrelevant consideration,” the judge said.

“I conclude that the council’s decision to grant itself planning permission for the development on the site was vitiated by legal error.”

The council’s plans were sent back to the drawing board after the judge quashed the planning permission.

Following the court case, a spokesman for Welwyn Hatfield Council said: “Although we are pleased that the judge rejected two of the three grounds lodged by the claimant, we are naturally disappointed that he reached his decision on one of them.

“We accepted early on that an error had been made, specifically in one paragraph of the report presented to the council’s Development Management Committee (DMC).

“The judge felt that the effect of this was that DMC Members may have been given the wrong impression as to the capacity at the Broxbourne facility, though it is important to note that there is no suggestion of any intent to mislead.

“The judge believed this error was sufficient to quash the planning permission.

“Work is now taking place to assess how best to move the application forward, and we hope to bring an updated report to Members in the near future.”

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