Judge blocks legal challenge against Leicestershire crematorium

Plans for a new crematorium in Leicestershire have won the backing of a High Court judge who rejected a challenge by the operators of a rival crematorium to block the proposals.

Mr Justice Wyn Williams upheld the decision of a planning inspector to approve Memoria’s application for a new crematorium, garden of remembrance, a new 65-space car park, and an additional 24 car park spaces for the existing Countesthorpe Cemetery at Countesthorpe in Leicestershire.

Memoria’s scheme had been rejected by Blaby District Council, but the inspector allowed its appeal, overturning the council’s decision.

Rival crematoria operators the Westerleigh Group – which was, when the appeal was heard, in the process of submitting a planning application for the development of a new crematorium on a site at nearby Kilby - had sought to have the permission quashed.

It argued that the inspector’s decision to deal with the matter on the basis of written representations was unfair and unreasonable.

However, today the judge said he had reached the "clear conclusion" that the challenge must fail.

He ordered the Westerleigh Group to pay £6,500 towards the government's legal costs.

Rejecting a claim that the procedure had led the inspector to fail to properly consider the existence of preferable alternative sites for the area’s new crematorium - not only Westerleigh's site at Kilby, but a third proposal at Great Glen - he said that the inspector had not acted unfairly by refusing to hold a public inquiry into the application.

He added: "the reality is that the issue of preferable alternative sites was canvassed by one objector in some detail; other objectors raised the possibility of alternatives.

"In these circumstances I am not prepared to conclude that the inspector's refusal to order an inquiry but rather to proceed by way of written representations was unreasonable or unfair."

The judge said that the scheme had "generated a good deal of local opposition" with the council receiving 58 individual letters of objection and a further 234 "template letters" opposed to the plans.

Westerleigh had argued that the size of the appeal site and the constrained layout of the development - due to flood risk on certain parts of the land - was contrary to Crematoria Guidance, would lead to unacceptable levels of on-site congestion and would not be sufficient to meet the requirements of the various faith communities within the area.

However, Stephen Whale, representing the government, had branded the case a "straightforward merits challenge by a rival operator of crematoria dressed up as a legal challenge".

Westerleigh Group Limited v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. Case Number: CO/2018/2014

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