Natural burials in view of Chigwell bedrooms ‘not good for children’

Allowing children to see funeral processions will have a negative impact on the start of their school day councillors have heard as part of arguments to reject plans for a burial site on green belt land in Chigwell.

The plans for a burial site on green belt land between Chigwell and Buckhurst Hill came a year after the council rejected similar plans – albeit that application included plans for buildings.

The most recent application has been submitted without building development after criticism from last time that the development of two buildings would harm the openness of the green belt.

The planning inspectorate agreed at appeal on this point – and upheld the council’s decision to refuse.

However, it criticised the council for using parking and flood risk concerns as a basis for refusal and awarded costs in favour of the applicant on these two issues.

The council has now refused a follow-up application – arguing it will harm the openness of the land and potentially add to the coalescence of Buckhurst Hill and Chigwell.

Councillor Kaz Rizvi, member of Epping Forest District Council’s planning committee said: “While the fixed structure has been removed, there is still enough in my opinion, which generates harm to the openness of the green belt.”

He added: “At The moment we have unspoilt open land there – if there is a road which is been built up if there is car parking spaces with Tarmac, clearly it results in the green belt being lost. Once it is lost it is lost forever.”

Councillor Darsham Sungar said the 30 parking places being proposed were insufficient and worried the burial site would struggle to operate smoothly if there was no building to provide lavatories and storage facilities.

He added that the well-being of children living nearby could suffer from having to see funeral processions and burials.

He told the committee those in Chester Road would have to look out out at burial from their bedrooms.

He said: “The mother and father will probably have the front bedroom and where do the children go?

“They go to the rear – and what do the children see through their rear bedroom windows?

“They will see if the application was to be granted, a burial site. They’ll see people’s loved ones being buried there. That surely is not good for the well-being of our children.

“And of course when they go to school, they come out of Chester Road and they are going to be seeing a funeral procession with loved ones being taken away.

“And they are just starting their day at school. And that has a negative impact.”

The 10-hectare open agricultural field located to the south of Chigwell Rise, bounded by the M11 motorway to the west and the rear gardens of Chester Road to the east could have 150 burials a year if the application is successfully granted at appeal.

The site has been used for several years for car boot sales under a permitted development allowance.

The application was also objected to by Chigwell Parish Council – repeating earlier concerns about flooding and planning policy DM21 which conditions against pollution from surface and groundwater.

Councillor Celina Jefcoate, from Chigwell Parish Council, said: “Having seen the tier 2 risk assessment from August 2023 that was not previously available to the inspector it is clear there is substantial evidence to support a refusal due to failure to comply with DM21 as well as a field full of cars being inappropriate development in green belt.”

Nigel Bennett for the applicant said: ”This revised proposal removes all the built footprint from the land and involves a natural burial ground comprising a mix of grassland, wooded area and extension tree planting.

“There will be no adverse impact on the openness of the green belt whatsoever.”

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Sebastian Mann

Local democracy reporter