Battle to keep burials in Royston nearing the end?

THE battle to keep burials in Royston may be nearing the end after the district council backed plans for a new cemetery.

Officers at North Herts District Council (NHDC) have recommended Royston Town Council’s plan is approved but it still needs councillors’ assent.

Town councillor F John Smith, who has been a key part of the cemetery project, said: “It’s what we have planned, it is good news.

“I can’t really see any problems now, we have gone through all the procedures and covered all the criteria and hopefully it will be approved.

“I will keep my fingers crossed that there are no problems now.”

The town council was sparked into action after an NHDC mandate which could still see burials moved 12 miles down the road to Wilbury Hills Cemetery, Letchworth GC, if it is not approved.

NHDC is banning full body burials at its Melbourn Road cemeteries as they reach capacity, but it is hoped the new 1.7 acre site will be up and running before it runs out of space in eight to 10 years.

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An anonymous donation of �25,000 was gifted to the town council to buy the derelict orchard and it will cost between �100,000-�190,000 to develop.

This will come from either increasing the authority’s council tax precept or taking out a loan from the Public Works Loan Board.

If the precept is increased it will mean Royston residents will be paying twice for cemetery services, as a slice of council tax paid to the district is channelled into funding burials.

However, Cllr Smith rejected claims it would be double taxation.

He said: “When the town was consulted last year the results of the consultations were based on having told people there was likely to be a precept rise.

“I wouldn’t say that (it is double taxation) there’s plenty of parishes in north Herts which have their own cemeteries and it would be another of these.”

Residents have also raised concerns on a number of issues ranging from vehicle access fears to a worry that water will be contaminated by burials - a claim refuted by Environmental Protection.

Former mayor Rod Kennedy has expressed concern on the development.

“First it is in the wrong place, second it’s premature because it is not needed for 10 years and third it is a political move to get Cllr Burt off the hook because he was the one who recommended it to North Herts District Council’s cabinet,” he said.

“I don’t see that this is fair as we who don’t ever require a burial ground should pay for this, if I want to be cremated I have to go to Cambridge.

“I trust that the town council won’t be stupid enough to spend our money on the cemetery.”

A raft of recommendations accompany the council officers’ decision and details of landscaping and improvements to a gravel bridleway must be submitted to NHDC before work starts.

Even if everything is okay the site will not be able to take bodies until the access road is laid with bitumen and drainage improved.

A full archaeological survey will be carried out and precautions will be taken to protect wildlife.