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Permission Refused in Challenge to Secretary of State's Grant of Permission for Muslim Burial Ground in the Green Belt

Craig Howell Williams QC
Caroline Daly

The High Court has refused permission for a s.288 claim that sought to challenge the decision of the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, taken earlier this year, to allow an appeal and grant planning permission for a change of use to a burial ground in the Green Belt in the London Borough of Havering.

In applying to bring the challenge, the Claimant, Memorial Gardens Limited, sought to introduce new evidence to that given at the inquiry regarding the availability of burial plots at another nearby cemetery. The Claimant had taken no part in the planning process or the inquiry. The claim was resisted on the basis that the substantive grounds were unarguable but also on procedural grounds, namely that the Claimant was not a "person aggrieved" and therefore had no standing to bring the claim and that the additional ex post facto evidence was inadmissible.

The appeal decision therefore stands. The application was for the change of use of land to burial grounds including the removal of existing agricultural buildings and the erection of two pavilion buildings for associated usage, hard and soft landscaping, new access to A12 and associated works, the site (of about 10ha) to be used for the provision of a large cemetery for Muslim burials to provide up to 10,000 burial plots. On appeal against Havering’s refusal to grant permission, the main issues related to: Green Belt policy; openness and purposes; landscape character and visual amenity; and very special circumstances, including need. The Secretary of State accepted the Inspector’s recommendation to grant planning permission on the basis that the weight of the considerations in favour of the proposal was sufficient to clearly outweigh the harm to the Green Belt and any other harm so that very special circumstances existed to justify the proposal.

Craig Howell Williams QC appeared at the s.78 appeal inquiry on behalf of the successful Appellant, Gardens of Peace, instructed by Sue Irons of Laytons. He and Caroline Daly acted for Gardens of Peace in the s.288 action, instructed by Sue Irons of Laytons.