Reverend speaks out against cemetery plans

A ROYSTON Reverend has criticised North Herts District Council’s (NHDC) proposed changes for the future of the area’s cemeteries.

The authority has recommended that the Wilbury Hills cemetery in Letchworth should become a central location for burials, with Royston cemetery just ten years away from full capacity.

A 50 per cent charge for the burial of under-18s, a service which is currently free, has also been proposed.

Reverend Leslie Harman of Royston Parish Church has spoken out against the plans, saying the effects have yet to be realised.

“I don’t think the implications have sunk in for the people of Royston yet,” he told The Crow.

“The idea of making a 30 mile round trip would be upsetting, especially when public transport facilities are currently inadequate. Visits are not just made for the funeral either, but all year round.”

Rev Harman also said he believes NHDC are looking for a way to save money, and haven’t considered other options.

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“From an administrative point of view for the whole of North Herts I can see how it makes sense, but from a pastoral point of view and for the people of Royston, it is not a satisfactory solution,” he said.

“There is a privately owned piece of land close to the current cemeteries that would make excellent sense to be used as burial ground, but the people of Royston are being overlooked for the sake of this policy.”

The possible introduction of a 50 per cent charge for under-18s was also challenged by Rev Harman, though he recognised the money that is needed to be saved by authorities.

“This is a council like many across the country that is strapped for cash and is looking for ways to make ends meet. I am sad though that this is a way of trying to raise money.

“I can understand that money has to be raised somewhere, but its disappointing it has to be in this direction because it’s a very sensitive area.”

Cllr Peter Burt, NHDC Portfolio Holder for waste, recycling and environment said: “This facility (Wilbury Hills) has been designed to provide much needed long-term capacity for the district’s residents. We understand some may be concerned about being buried in a different location to relatives, and in order to increase the longevity of these local cemeteries it is proposed that we restrict their use to the internment of ashes only.

“Consideration is also being given to changes to pricing and these will be discussed at the next Cabinet meeting on 25 January. One of the measures - the introduction of a 50% charge for the burial of under-18’s - has already been discussed by Area Committees and this feedback will help the Cabinet’s decision.

“I would like to add that officers will continue to work with individual families as and when required so as to meet their wishes in the best way possible within the context of the diminishing finances available. This is not a decision that the Council has taken lightly.”