Burials a step closer to being kept in Royston?

PUBLISHED: 11:29 16 February 2012

A CEMETERY which will keep burials in Royston for 100 years is a step closer to development after councillors unanimously voted in principle to buy the land.

Monday’s town council decision is a bid to counter-act a North Herts District Council mandate to move body burials 12 miles down the road to Wilbury Hills Cemetery, Letchworth GC, if a suitable site cannot be found by June.

This sparked concern families would have difficulty visiting the graves of loved ones.

Speaking at the extraordinary full council meeting, Cllr Peter Burt said: “This is probably the most important decision we will make, certainly for some time because it affects Royston in so many ways.

“A lot of work has gone into this behind closed doors because of commercial negotiations going on.

“If we decide tonight that we are not going to go ahead, it means the other option is the cemetery at Wilbury Hills, which is the cemetery for the entire district and this is the only other option on the table.”

An anonymous donation of £25,000 to buy the 1.7 acre derelict orchard site at Wicker Hall, Briary Lane, has been received by the council and all that is standing in the way now is planning permission from the district council.

The owner of Wicker Hall has been approached and is willing to sell the land to the authority for use as a cemetery.

Potential problems were identified, but councillors were keen to stress that a consultation would take place, and agreed in principle the purchase of the land, subject to planning permission.

Councillor F John Smith said: “We have found a site at Wicker Hall that seems suitable – and when I say suitable it does not mean ideal.

“We all know that to find the ideal in any walk of life is extremely rare.”

Royston Town Council will have to pay for the £100,000-£190,000 development of the land which will be funded either by a precept rise or a loan from the Public Works Loan Board – or a combination of both.

And while the cemetery is developed, the existing Melbourn Road sites, which have only enough space for eight years of burials – will be kept in use.

A precept increase would be in the region of 3-7p a week for a Band D property. However, the people of Royston are already paying for burial provision to NHDC.

Council leader Robert Smith previously told The Crow an ongoing consultation indicates a great deal of support for the increase.

But concerns were beginning to bubble under the surface at the meeting with residents of Echo Hill worried about the development of the site.

Claire Scott said: “It seemed to be already decided because there has been an anonymous donation, and by the way they were talking it has already been set up.

“My concerns are wildlife and conservation, because we get a lot of bats and animals with it being a decaying orchard which is more important for wildlife than other trees.”


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