Lets predict some answers arising from a public outrage and tabloid headlines in advance.
Tonight Channel 4 will screen a programme called ‘undercover undertaker’ on coop funeral care. It will show that whilst relatives think that bodies of its loved ones are stored in its 900 funderal homes in the main they are stored in one of 150 ‘hubs’ where bodies are ‘stacked liked tv sets’. Which
contained a garage with a fleet of limousines and hearses, storage for dozens of coffins, and a large refrigerated area – the mortuary – with rack upon rack of bodies, some of them uncovered.
When families asked to see their loved ones, the body would be taken back to the funeral home, a journey of up to 30 miles
Now questions will be asked, we didnt know we were living in an area where bdoeies were stored. Does this need planning permission, most certainly yes.
DETR certainly felt so in 1999 Hansard HC Deb 11 June 1999 vol 332 cc961-8 Nick Raynsford in answer to a parliamentary question.
Following a review of the UCO in 1991, the previous Government decided that funeral directors’ premises should remain in the shops class. They felt that when people have to cope with bereavement, they should expect to be able to contact an undertaker in the locality. I agree with this view…
We know that some would like funeral uses to be removed from the shops class of the UCO. Difficulties have, on occasion, arisen when shops in residential areas have changed to that use. Clearly, the siting of such businesses close to neighbouring developments such as old people’s homes can be a delicate matter and may cause disquiet. However, those are isolated instances and we have no evidence that there is a widespread problem that would justify removal of funeral directors’ rights under the UCO…..
While funeral directors’ premises fall within the UCO, funeral directors’ chapels of rest are generally treated separately. If I may lapse into Latin, the technical term is sui generis, that is, outside the use class system. Mortuaries would also be sui generis unless ancillary to some other use of land, such as a hospital or clinic. That is because such activities are more likely to have an impact on local amenity and generate concern. Sui generis uses require specific planning permission for any changes to or from that use. A planning application would, therefore, be required for a new chapel of rest or a mortuary.
These Death Hubs from the Coop however are more than mortuaries also containing warehousing activities. The issue then is whether they are a hybrid B8/Mortuary use or a mixed use. The caselaw dependes on how scattered and intermingled the uses are but as the mortuary is a clearly self contained unit my guess is it is a hybrid use and so change of use is required for the change of the whole planning unit (the warehouse) to a hybrid b8/mortuary use. Of course the 4 year rule applies. So a lot of CLUDs will be going in I imagine.
The whole ‘death hub’ story has given me a very good idea for a vampire movie.