Pendle Council reassures Nelson and Brierfield residents as plans for new cemetery begin to take shape

People with homes around land earmarked as a potential new cemetery in Pendle have been assured their concerns will be listened to if the land is bought and then developed for burials.

By Robbie Macdonald
Thursday, 28th July 2022, 11:28 am

Pendle Borough Council has identified land between Brierfield and Nelson, south of Halifax Road, as a potentially suitable site with space for around 7,000 graves into the future.

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New cemetery earmarked for Nelson and Brierfield will provide space for 7,400 gr...

Pendle Council does not currently own the land. It is owned by Lancashire County Council and is next to a smaller allotments site owned by Brierfield Town Council and another smaller site owned by Pendle Council.

The large parcel of land south of Halifax Road that has been earmarked for a new cemetery

At the latest meeting of Pendle Council’s Policy & Resources Committee, residents raised various fears about flooding, gardens, privacy and traffic linked to a potential new cemetery.

In reply, councillors gave reassurances that talks would be held, if the borough decides to buy the land and a formal planning process would take place, giving opportunities to look at all the details. They said new local cemetery space was vital.

But some councillors queried the price of the land and feared the costs would hit Pendle residents, one way or another.

However, overall, the committee agreed four recommendations to take the cemetery project to the next phases, which will include submitting a bid to the borough’s capital funding programme for large projects. That bid would have to be approved before the land can be bought.

The borough council would need to buy the large site from the county for an estimated £840,000 and also pay for other fees associated with surveys and other requirements. The total costs would be over £1million.

If the land was bought to be developed as a cemetery, Pendle Council would need to formally submit a planning application with details such areas suitable for graves, roads, paths, a car park, a storage building and a wall for ashes. Not all the land would be used.

At the committee meeting, numerous residents highlighted a range of fears about flooding, potential loss of allotments, gardens and open fields, and traffic.

Some also alleged there had been no public consultation.

While councillors acknowledged their concerns, some said cemetery options had been discussed in public at previous Pendle Council meetings.

FLOODING FEARS

Resident Elaine Green said: “I live nearby and the fields come up to my garden wall. We are all very strongly opposed to this plan, which we have never been consulted upon.

“These fields have been left un-built on because they are not suitable for houses. The land is best for grazing. There are three streams running through. In wet weather, there have been ponds forming on the other side of my garden wall and water running off like a river on Hibson Road. Ground samples were done in drier spring and summer weather. Bu they should be done in wet winter weather. The land can be a quagmire.

She added: “We are also worried about crowds of people coming to funerals and I personally don’t want to see coffins being lowered into the ground from my kitchen window. That would be every upsetting.”

She also highlighted local wildlife and rare grasses in the area.

Similar themes were raised by various residents.

GROUND TESTS

Conservative Coun Nadeem Ahmed, who is also Leader of Pendle Council, said: “I want to thank everyone who has spoken about this. I understand it is a sensitive issue.

“Regarding suitability of the land, the site has been tested. Councillors are not experts but the site has been tested and we have been advised it is suitable for burials. About two hectares are not suitable and will be excluded from burials. It could be used for car parking. Regarding flooding, infrastructure would have to be put in place to address that. ”

He then emphasised: “Lancashire County Council will sell this land. They have been clear about that. If Pendle Council does not buy it, the land will be put on the open market for any buyer.”

Regarding the future of gardens, he added: “For gardens within the site there will be discussions with the owners. I have visited the area and spoken to residents. It’s my personal view that gardens should be allowed and will create a buffer zone.”

‘WE HAVE NOT RUSHED THIS’

He also said: “Councillors have been aware of this site for a while. There will be a masterplan and a planning application with details such as access and tree planting. We have got a legal, planning and consultation process.”

Coun Ahmed said other possible cemetery locations in Pendle had been discussed publicly at previous council meetings. But they did not offer long-term solutions.

“This is a large site and a long-term solution. This would take our provision from just over 1,200 currently to over 8,000 places. We have a duty to provide burial places while being sensitive to residents.”

He said: “Some councillors are saying they were not aware of this. But we have had various reports and discussions. In June 2021, council officers had a list of eight sites. That was reduced to three in March this year at the Policy & Resources Committee. How can councillors say they were not aware? At the same meeting, this site was chosen by councillors as the preferred site. We then asked for a report on costings and processes, which we have at the meeting tonight.”

He added: “This is the third report I have seen since being leader. We have not rushed through it. We have gone into great detail.”

A number of Conservative and Labour councillors generally spoke in favour of the recommendations while also acknowledging the issues raised by residents.

Conservative Coun Keiran McGladdery said: “I fully support this. We need space to bury our loved ones. I’m sure studies will be done about flooding and there are a number of hectares that are safe. This has been dragging-on for years. The Conservatives have delivered what we promised.”

LAND VALUE

Labour Coun Asjad Mahmood asked if the land price could be re-negotiated with the county council.

Lib-Dem Coun David Whipp also questioned the estimated cost of the land. He opposed the current proposals and said: “I’m aghast at Lancashire County Council stinging Pendle residents for the best part of £900,000. It’s a staggering amount for land where a previous planning application was rejected. Regarding the overall impact, this would be £1.4million for a cash-strapped borough.”

He also had fears about the financial impact if cemetery fees were increased to pay for the development.

Philip Mousedale, the council’s executive director, said the committee had to decide if it wanted to make a bid to the borough’s capital programme. It would then take its place with other bids. The purchase of the land would not happen until the bid had been considered and approved.

In a vote, the Policy and Resources Committee supported four recommendations. These were the purchase price of £840,000 plus county council fees of £10,000 and Land Registry fees and stamp duty of £31,600 be approved. Also that the provisional estimate of £500,000 for site works be noted by councillors, the borough’s environmental services manager be authorised to submit a planning application and a bid to the council’s capital programme should be submitted.