Express & Star

Covid memorial approved for National Memorial Arboretum

Plans to transform 25 acres of former quarry land into a living memorial for those who died during the Covid-19 pandemic have won the backing of Lichfield councillors.

Last updated
How the Covid memorial woodland would look

A new woodland is set to be created on land on the northern boundary of the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, as well as water features, spaces for reflection, new visitor facilities, a play area and a building providing meeting space.

Agent Marie Stacey, who spoke in support of the application at Wednesday’s Lichfield District Council’s planning committee meeting, said: “The scheme before you today is of national significance- I don’t have to remind members that the Covid-19 pandemic was a rare catastrophe that affected all aspects of society across the world. This is a poignant part of our social history that affected every single person in the UK.

“The proposed woodland memorial will provide a focal place for reflection and contemplation of the impact of this globally-significant event. The creation of a permanent woodland would provide a permanent home for the millions of individual and collective stories to ensure that they are preserved for generations to come.

“The scheme is before you because of the location of the proposed buildings in the flood plain. There are no reasonable alternative areas of lower flood risk within the Arboretum or adjacent to it – those areas of lower flood risk are already developed, or not sufficient in size to accommodate the proposed development, or not available now.

“The proposed buildings are an integral part of the experience of the woodland memorial. There is a functional need for the proposed kiosk and public convenience in particular to be co-located within the application site, in order to provide accessible facilities due to the main facilities being some 700m away.

“The proposed multi-use building would provide a focal meeting space for the memorial and for groups to use in association with remembrance, including the Covid pandemic. There will be no net loss of flood plain storage and therefore no additional risk to people or property surrounding the development; given its location the Arboretum already has a well-established flood evacuation management plan.”

Committee members voted to approve the application on Wednesday (December 6). This decision will be referred to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for confirmation however, after an objection was received by the Environment Agency because the site is located in a flood zone.

Councillor Thomas Marshall, who chaired the meeting, said: “I think we’re extremely fortunate to have the National Memorial within our district and on our doorstep. It performs a wonderful service not just for people locally but nationally and even internationally as well.

“This is a vitally important part of the fabric of our society now. I think this world-renowned site is something that we can and wish to support at every opportunity.”

Councillor David Salter said: “I have spent many hours there myself and I believe this will be a wonderful addition to the whole site. The buildings are not habitable they are purely functional – if it looked likely to be a flood then I’m sure moves would be put in place to evacuate or simply not open it.”

Councillor Diane Evans said: “This is an attractive proposal and it’s a very worthy cause. It is important there is a lasting memorial – this is very pertinent to a lot of people in this country and beyond because it was a terrible time for so many people.”

Speaking after the meeting Philippa Rawlinson, director of the National Memorial Arboretum, said: “As the nation’s year-round place to remember we were inundated with requests to create a new space for people to commemorate the incredible service and sacrifice made by key workers during the darkest of times and remember all those who lost their lives as a result of the pandemic. This ambitious new remembrance space would be a fitting tribute to their service and sacrifice, complementing the ‘Trees of Life’ glade dedicated earlier this year, and we are open to dialogue with large-scale funding partners, including the UK Government, to enable the delivery of our full vision.”