Sunday, 26 July 2015

HRN2 Outline Approved - Without Land Identified for Cemetery

I attended the 2 hour debate at CBC on Wednesday this week on whether to allow the outline planning permission for HRN2, or not. It was all a forgone conclusion, really. The Conservatives have a huge majority, and none of the 4 councillors representing Houghton Regis, 3 of whom are that rare opposition, even have a vote on the DMC.

Lots of objections were put in. It's in the green belt, the number of allotments doesn't match how many should be provided per household, road safety concerns with the road layout proposal, traffic volumes on Bedford Road, the original proposal for a wildlife visitor hut had been removed, there was a need for a new cemetery in the town and no provision for one. There were nods to some of these, but in the voting, the need to create new housing seemed to take on the majority opinion.

Who knows, maybe some of these concerns will be worked out before the full planning permissions go through? I doubt they all will be. Some of those things needed to have been "set in stone" before the outline was agreed. In fact, one of the Tories said as much, and then said he'd still be supporting the outline application. Beggars belief.

If not Orchard Close, and not the HRN2 site, where?
So, what are the options for a new cemetery, now? Orchard Close was investigated for its suitability, by the Environment Agency, then dropped due to covenants protecting it for open space for recreational use. The other original choice was Windsor Drive, which might have also been used for allotments, but local opposition is expected there. That site is even closer to the water table, so is less suitable than Orchard Close. That's a big problem for any site within Houghton Regis Parish. The water table. There might just be other plots on the edges of the parish our town councillors might look at, like at Sewell (still in the parish), but environmentally special and sensitive to many people.

With the Town Council having few options left, I wouldn't fancy being in their shoes for next few years. Perhaps a new approach altogether is needed? After all a town council does not HAVE to provide a cemetery. But typically, burials in parishes where you are not resident, are charged THREE times higher than someone who does.

Maybe Central Beds Council needs to start looking to provide a central cemetery? It could be run profitably (as is the Conservative way), if charged correctly, after all, no crematorium runs at a loss.


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