A man from Buckinghamshire who founded a child bereavement charity ten years ago has won an appeal against his local council after the non-profit was shut down because of contentions around planning permission.

John Colinswood, 68, founded The Children’s Memorial Gardens and Foodbank on land adjoining his home in Longwick, near Princes Risborough, a decade ago, and has worked tirelessly since to provide bereaved families with a space to plant and tend trees as a way of coping with their grief.

He also cultivated a food production site near the garden, with produce donated to local food banks.

However, the 68-year-old was forced to temporarily cease operations after Buckinghamshire Council issued a Penalty Enforcement Notice (PEN) for the charitable development in June last year.

The notice alleged that John had failed to obtain planning permission to use the land in a “residential and agricultural capacity and as a memorial garden” and required him to stop using it, remove “gravel pathways and a gate structure” and restore the area to its former condition – including digging up and removing the many trees that have been planted in memory of lost loved ones over the last decade.

Bucks Free Press:

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John launched an appeal against the enforcement notice, and on April 17, the Planning Inspectorate approved the appeal, quashed the PEN and granted permission for the charity to continue operating as usual.

The inspector said the issues identified by Bucks Council – including the unauthorised gravel paths and a wooden gate – were not legitimate.

They also concluded that the “sustainability” harm of the development – supposedly by requiring visitors to travel to the memorial garden by car – was limited due to low visitor numbers and an open and nature-based site plan.

The Planning Inspectorate additionally rejected the approval conditions proposed by the council, which included the creation of on-site parking and restructured opening hours.

They said such measures “wouldn’t be necessary” due to low foot traffic and the site’s function as a “place of quiet contemplation”.

Bucks Free Press:

Speaking in February, John said: “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.”

Following the overturning of the PEN, he told the Free Press that he viewed the successful outcome of the “long and costly” battle against the council’s decision as “a triumph”.

Peter Strachan, Buckinghamshire Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Regeneration, told the Free Press in February that the local authority was “duty-bound to consider every project that comes through the planning process against planning laws and policy and (to) act accordingly”.

He also acknowledged the “emotive” nature of the Children’s Memorial Gardens and Foodbank site and the “significant meaning” it was likely to hold for “all involved”.

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