A man from Buckinghamshire has accused his local council of forcing him to close a child bereavement charity he founded 10 years ago due to contentions around planning permission.

John Colinswood, 68, founded The Children's Memorial Gardens and Food Bank charity on land adjoining his home in Longwick, near Princes Risborough, 10 years ago and he believes the registered enterprise has since become a vital community asset, providing bereaved families in the area with a space to realise their grief by planting and tending to another living organism.

John said he was caught off guard, then, when Buckinghamshire Council issued a Penalty Enforcement Notice (PEN) for the land adjoining his property and his home itself after a third party lodged a complaint that the 68-year-old never sought planning permission for the charitable site.

The pressure of the notice has left him with little option but to close the charity, something he has done with great reluctance thanks to the central role it has assumed in his life over the last decade.

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"All I'm trying to do is give back - it's a children's memorial garden that I founded with my wife and my daughter. Why the council would have an issue with that is something that's only known to them.

"They said we need planning permission because we're planting things and having visitors. We are currently working with two bereaved families in Longwick, but it's private land and no one comes onto it without my or my wife's consent."

Peter Strachan, Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Regeneration said: “We obviously appreciate the notion of wanting to provide a tranquil place for bereaved families to remember their loved ones but unfortunately, setting up a new venture or changing the use of a site might require planning permission, and, in this case, the necessary permissions were not sought.

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“Planning permission for the memorial garden was ultimately refused due to concerns about the site’s unsustainable location (which is only accessible by car) and it not being an appropriate use for agricultural land. The applicant appealed the council’s decision to refuse planning permission, but his appeal was subsequently dismissed by the independent planning inspector.”

Mr Strachan added: “After a refused planning application and a dismissed appeal, the council is left with no alternative but to issue an enforcement notice. The landowner has lodged a further appeal against the enforcement notice, so the requirements of the notice are paused until the appeal outcome.

“Every project that comes through the planning process is different, but we are duty-bound to consider each against planning laws and policy and act accordingly on a neutral and factual basis, including emotive projects such as this which we understand will have significant meaning to all involved.”