‘It’s a very emotive subject’ – Royston cemetery briefing leads to heated argument

Councillor Peter Burt with a map of the town.

Councillor Peter Burt with a map of the town. - Credit: Archant

It was intended as a meeting informing the public about progress at Wicker Hall – the site purchased for a cemetery in Royston – but minutes into the presentation the Royston Town Council briefing had already descended into a heated exchange of words with vehement opponents.

As Councillor Peter Burt began his slideshow about costs and reasons for the rejection of 11 other proposed sites on Tuesday evening, Don Shewan of Echo Hill piped up, saying: “At the annual town meeting we understood that there would be a full debate rather than a briefing.”

Other people from the floor heckled: “It’s not what was promised.”

Councillor Burt said: “It’s a very emotive subject. Burials and funerals are not something we take lightly. I have the job of presenting what the town council has done.”

The councillor then went on to explain how the project was £8,158 in credit, after the council sold surplus land for £30,000, and spent £21,842 of that to date on plans and drawing work. The land was originally purchased with a £25,000 anonymous donation – a point which raised concern from the audience over who this donor was.

Councillor Burt told them that he doesn’t know.

He said total costs of construction are estimated to be up to £265,000.

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Councillor Burt then went on to say fears such as risk to water supply – the Environment Agency has given its blessing – the fact that disabled people will struggle to get to the site as it is on a slope, and traffic problems were all ‘misinformation’. There will be a car park, he said, with space for 16 vehicles.

Searching questions continued into the evening, and David Bannister, who had suggested four sites to the council that were dismissed in 2012, said: ‘Nobody is going to offer you a cemetery site, you’re going to have to go out and ask.’ Councillors reiterated that they feel Wicker Hall is a suitable site.

There were also questions about whether the cemetery be reserved for the use of people from Royston.

Councillor Burt replied: “People in Royston would be entitled to be buried there.

“I can’t be specific, but the fees can be charged at different rates for people from outside the town with no links. It’s for locals.”

Unless there is a viable alternative suggested, Burt said, work will start in the winter with a ‘view to being ready as soon as possible.’