Wife of ex-Harrods boss Mohamed Al-Fayed loses High Court battle

Wife of ex-Harrods boss Mohamed Al-Fayed loses High Court battle

01/24/2023

Wife of billionaire ex-Harrods boss Mohamed Al-Fayed loses High Court battle to stop huge crematorium being built half a mile from couple’s £4.6m 17th-century Surrey mansion

  • Heini Wathen-Fayed sued over plans to build the funeral site near her mansion
  • READ: Former Met commissioner reveals the bizarre gifts Al Fayed gave him  

The wife of billionaire former Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed has lost her High Court bid to stop a huge crematorium and memorial garden being built half a mile from the couple’s luxury Surrey mansion.

Heini Wathen-Fayed sued over plans to build the funeral site, complete with crematorium, a 120-seat ceremony hall, memorial area, garden of remembrance and linked parking, on green belt land close to Barrow Green Court, their 17th-century country pile.

Her lawyers claimed the government decision to approve the scheme near Oxted, Surrey, ignored key factors such as the risk of local flooding and the closeness of ash-scattering ceremonies in the memorial garden to the nearest dwelling.

They argued that the memorial garden’s planned location is just 200 yards from ‘neighbouring residential buildings’ and 50 yards from the nearest road, breaching strict rules laid down under the Cremation Act that ban ashes being scattered in proximity to houses and roads.

Former actress Heini Wathen-Fayed is spearheading the legal battle to prevent the huge funeral site being built close to her £4.6million mansion. Other locals have also appealed against the proposals, which were approved by Tandridge District Council in 2021

The proposed crematorium is just half a mile from the couple’s lavish property in Oxted, with bosses at Horizon Cremation Ltd planning to create a ceremony hall, memorial area and a garden of remembrance at the site

But developers Horizon Cremation Ltd insisted there would be no breach, as scattering ashes directly on the ground will be banned at the site, with cremated remains to be stored in ‘secure cairns’.

Now at London’s High Court, Judge Timothy Mould KC has rejected Mrs Wathen-Fayed’s challenge, backing the government decision to allow the funeral site to be built.

Mr Al-Fayed, 93, has owned the Grade-I listed mansion since the 1970s and the couple say they relish the peace and tranquility of their rural haven.

Mrs Wathen-Fayed, who married Mr Al-Fayed in 1985, is mother to four of the former Harrods and Fulham FC owner’s children.

Dodi Al-Fayed, who died alongside Princess Diana in a 1997 car crash, was born to Mr Al-Fayed’s first wife, Samira Khashoggi.

The super-wealthy couple are reportedly worth over £1.2billion. They own a mouth-watering portfolio of properties, including a Scottish castle and estate, New York apartments and buildings overlooking Hyde Park.

Mrs Wathen-Fayed was embroiled in the court fight after leading a challenge by the 2,500-strong Oxted and Limpsfield Residents Group, which sought to overturn the government inspector’s September 2021 decision to grant planning permission.

The government inspector had overridden Tandridge District Council’s decision to block the build, citing an ‘existing and growing community need for cremation facilities’.

Planning inspector Jonathan Price believes that the new crematorium would ease pressure on existing funeral sites in Tandrige. In his report he revealed that they were currently functioning ‘beyond their practical capacity’

It is not the first time that the couple, thought to be worth around £1.2 billion, have become embroiled in a legal battle. Mr Al-Fayed unsuccessfully sued over oil rights beneath the Barrow Green Court estate in 2010

The Finnish-born model and actress, 67, told the court she was fighting the case to safeguard the local environment from development and preserve the ‘peaceful’ 12-acre site.

Planning permission was initially refused by the council in October 2020, but Horizon then challenged that decision in an appeal to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, whose planning inspector overruled the council in September 2021.

The case has already taken a heavy financial toll, with Horizon’s director, Stephen Byfield, estimating after a hearing last year that the funeral company had already splashed out around £500,000 fighting to get the green light for the crematorium.

The scheme is targeted for siting on fields bordering the A25 and Barrow Green Road, which objectors say should be safeguarded from all development.

Lawyers for Mrs Wathen-Fayed and the other campaigners pointed out that the land is in the protected green belt and on the edge of an ‘area of outstanding beauty’ with sweeping views over the Surrey hills.

On top of that, they said the government’s decision to approve the proposals ignored guidance about possible flood risk and whether an alternative site should be used.

But the planning inspector who ruled in favour of the scheme, Jonathan Price, said it would do only ‘moderate harm’ to the area’s rural character.

Mrs Wathen-Fayed claims that the couple moved to the area because it was surrounded by Green Belt land and they want it to be ‘preserved.’ Bosses at the crematorium claim that the legal battle for approval has already cost them half a million 

And he decided the local demand for a new crematorium was so pressing that an exception should be made to allow the development in green belt land.

Existing funeral sites around Tandridge are all functioning ‘beyond their practical capacity’, he found.

Ruling against Mrs Wathen-Fayed, Judge Mold said the planning inspector’s approach was ‘lawful’ and there was ‘no impediment to the proposed location of the memorial garden within 200 yards of neighbouring dwellings’.

He rejected the argument that the plans could not be allowed because they were in breach of rules about crematorium facilities being more than 200 yards from the nearest home.

‘In my judgment, on the basis of the evidence before the inspector, it was lawful to conclude that the proposed use of the memorial gardens and arrangements for the sealed storage of ashes pending their removal from the site would not form part of the process of burning human remains at this cremation facility,’ he ruled.

‘The claim is dismissed.’

Outside court, Mrs Wathen-Fayed slammed the proposals, saying part of the area set to become the funeral site is currently used for horse grazing and that she objects because the need to preserve the countryside outweighs the need for a new crematorium the area.

She said: ‘We moved there because of the green belt and local residents want to keep it like that. It’s a peaceful and natural area and we want more land to be preserved.’ 

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