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Agenda item

22/05714/FB - South Bristol Crematorium and Cemetery, Bridgewater Road


Planning officers introduced the report and made the following comments as part of their presentation:


·       The Application is for the expansion of the existing cemetery to allow additional burial space

·       The new site is divided into 3 plots – the southern plot, the northern plot by the railway and with an additional plot of land allocated for a new drainage pond and various drainage runs across the site

·       Details of the Local Plan allocations were set out on the screen. All the land in question is within the green belt

·       The proposed development would be delivered in phases – southern, norther and then the land around the pond

·       Since the development was a pavilions 1970s low level office block, officers had assessed that it would not impact on this. The other listed building was owned by Honeyfield Personal Training and would also not impact

·       Section 38(6) stated that the Local Planning Authority should have regard to the development plan unless material considerations indicated otherwise

·       Key issues were the urgent need for burial capacity in the city – at current usage it was estimated this would run out after 2 years. In addition, it had been assessed that there were no other opportunity to expand in other cemeteries

·       The impact in the green belt was deemed acceptable. Officers’ view is that the SNCI can be mitigated with the amendment sheet providing further details of this

·       There had been three further objections since the issuing of the amendment sheet, including from the Avion Wildlife Trust

·       The land officer had also recommended some additional conditions to have a further assessment of the site

·       Therefore, the recommendation contained in the report was to approve subject to the issuing of delegated authority to officers concerning the proposed conditions


Officers responded to Councillors’ questions as follows:


·       The biodiversity net gain was set out in the amendment sheet. Following a number of revisions, the BNG assessment had now been set as positive 2.93% gain in area habitats, 107% gain in hedgerow units and 0.19% gain in river units

·       Councillors’ concerns were noted about the impact on Yew Tree Farm and its viability. Officers confirmed that mitigation to enable it to continue through improvements in the remaining land and that the Local Planning Authority would be directly involved in negotiations to enable Yew Tree Farm to continue to use it. In addition, it should be noted that the amount of land affected was a comparatively small area of land

·       Members’ concern was noted that there had been an apparent lack of consultation with Yew Tree Farm as the adjacent land user and current tenant. Whilst the specific list of consultees was not available at the meeting, officers could confirm that consultation involved the neighbours, erection of site notices and notices in the local paper, two of which were statutory requirements. Stakeholders were consulted as part of the Community Involvement Statement – even though these had not been listed, they had been consulted and their views given the appropriate weight. Officers had been advised by the applicant that there had been extensive negotiations

·       Officers read Policy DM19 in detail – they key issue was that the site was policy compliant, with a positive uplift and with mitigation provided

·       The southern plot of land was outside the SNCI whilst the two northern plots were wholly inside it with the boundary being drawn around the existing cemetery

·       The Committee needed to assess Policy DM17 concerning potential harm to the urban landscape against the need for a cemetery with the urgent need for burial space being a material consideration

·       The proposed development was in line with DM19 and achieved a positive balance. Burial space would have an impact on equalities which was another important factor and why substantial weight needed to be given to the issue of the city running out of burial space

·       All issues which had planning impact needed to be treated as a planning consideration. The impact of harm on the site was considered on a net basis rather than gross

·       Officers explained the impact of previous planning policy on the site as follows – the site had been granted in 1963 for use as a cemetery with further works in 1969. The 2022 application permitted planning permission to continue as per the original granting of the site. At time that the application made, it was not entirely clear whether planning permission was extant hence they were advised to withdraw it and put in a new application. Whether extant or not, this is not material to your decision either way.

·       Whilst the original crematorium was built within the required timescale, it was not clear whether subsequent developments had been. Whilst officers had been advised that the site was originally farmland that had been the subject of a Compulsory Purchase Order, it had not been possible to confirm this

·       There was a hedge situated between Triangle Plot 1 and the farmhouse but this was not as significant as other hedgerows and therefore did not appear on the plan on Slide 8. Regardless of how robust the hedge was, the ability to view one from other and the harm incurred would be negligible

·       Network Rail had very specific requirements concerning infrastructure and would not have welcomed the land near the pond being used for the required purpose

·       The drainage officer had confirmed that was proposed was satisfactory

·       A Construction Management Plan could be drawn up to ensure proper controls over the time and impact of the construction period

·       The environmental agency had confirmed they were satisfied with the proposal and had no concerns about the possible impact of embalming fluid on the brook or land


Committee Members made the following comments:


·       The Chair of the Committee set out the key issues that members needed to balance in forming a decision

·       The importance of this cemetery needed to be acknowledged as a site not just for the dead but also for visitors. There was also an important equality issue at stake since different cultures required fifferent methods of burial. Whilst the environmental impact was less of a concern since the mitigation seemed satisfactory, the impact on Yew Tree Farm remained the biggest concern. The lack of discussion with the owner to find a solution was a cause of great concern and further effort was needed to find a compromise between the two

·       This is a sensitive and difficult application. Members expressed a great deal of sympathy with Yew Tree Farm in view of the great work they carried out and their wish to continue. However, this was not a planning consideration and there was an urgent need for more burial space. If Bristol City Council were to be so short of space that they needed to stockpile coffins, this would rightly create an outcry. However, the potential impact on Yew Tree Farm was embarrassing given the importance that the local authority attached to Gold Standard Food and its environmental credentials. Councillors indicated that they were very unhappy with the applicant’s approach on this and that no alternative sites had been identified. However, the application showed a net environmental gain and had to be determined on its merits

·       The application had not been handled properly. If the Committee supported the application, it would not be able to protect sites that it should be. Therefore, the application should not be supported

·       The key issue was not the applicant’s approach but one of political leadership since they had pursued what they had been requested to do. In this case, there had been a very rigid policy of ensuring that the lines between development control and planning strategy were not in any way blurred which was contrary to how development often took place. Whilst the SNCI allowed determination in exceptional circumstances, the rules around heritage needed to be considered. Since the site contained some very old trees, this is the context in which this valuable history sits and may well provide a strong case to override it

·       Although the situation was not satisfactory, the application should be supported as there is an urgent need for burial space.

·       This was a very difficult application in which priorities needed to be balanced. Whilst Yew Tree Farm had been treated appallingly and continued support for it was needed, there was a desperate need for burial space and therefore with a heavy heart it should be supported

·       Landowners’ rights also needed to be protected in this case. In view of the acute embarrassment concerning the situation and the impact on Yew Tree Farm, the applicant would was very likely to ensure that the continued prosperity and viability of it was maintained going forward

·       This was the first application that had come forward on this site and no alternative sites appeared to have been considered. It appeared to have been made purely on the basis of administrative convenience. If there genuinely no other sites, this might be a reasonable decision but in the absence of this, it should be opposed

·       It was unfortunate that this application had come to Committee before a strategy had been approved at Cabinet. It would shortly be discussed at the Communities Scrutiny Commission and it would be preferable to consider their views before making an irreversible decision with potential long term implications since there was lots of other land available that needed to be fully explored

·       There was a vital need for more land to be used for this purpose. It was a human right to be buried

·       It was understandable that this issue provoked a great deal of emotion. If the application was approved, there would need to be a great deal of effort made to ensure mitigation for Yew Tree Farm. It was acknowledged that Bristol was short of land or housing and that this development was badly needed. It would not be acceptable to require residents to bury relatives outside the city boundary when there were options available to prevent this.


The Committee noted that they had the option to defer the application pending reconsideration at a future meeting (usually the next meeting). Officers would be requested to draw up possible reasons for refusal within the report in the event that the Committee decided to proceed with a refusal.


Councillor Steve Pearce moved that the recommendations contained in the report be approved, seconded by Councillor Lesley Alexander and upon being put to the vote, it was LOST (2 for, 7 against).


Councillor Guy Poultney moved, seconded by Councillor Chris Windows and upon being put to the vote, it was


RESOLVED (7 for, 2 against) – that application is deferred pending a further report to be resubmitted at a future meeting setting out suggested reasons for refusal on the basis of the issues raised by Councillors at the meeting.



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