Developer behind new £5 million North Herts Memorial Park and Crematorium near Hitchin questions need for council-run Letchworth facility

North Herts Memorial Park and Crematorium

North Herts Memorial Park and Crematorium - Credit: Archant

The developer behind a new crematorium and memorial park which opens near Hitchin on Monday has questioned why North Herts District Council is continuing to pursue funding its own facility in Letchworth.

North Herts Memorial Park and Crematorium

North Herts Memorial Park and Crematorium - Credit: Archant

Memoria – the company behind the £5 million North Herts Memorial Park and Crematorium project – say its state-of-the art facility on land west of Bedford Road just outside Hitchin will fill a gap in the market by making it the nearest crematorium for more than 111,000 people in our area.

At present, people in North Herts have a choice of crematoria at Harwood Park in Stevenage, or further afield in Bedford, Cambridge or Luton – with Memoria saying its site will reduce travel and waiting times for local families.

But the district council has been exploring the possibility of building a crematorium of its own at the flagship cemetery in Letchworth’s Wilbury Hills – a move Memoria believes is a waste of taxpayers’ money.

Jamieson Hodgson, business development and head of planning at Memoria, told the Comet: “There is a critical need for North Herts Memorial Park.

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“Our opening comes at a time when North Herts District Council has recently allocated £50,000 of public money to pursue an outline application for another crematorium at Wilbury Hills, just two miles away – a move many may consider unnecessary now this new facility at Holwell is operational and satisfying local need.”

In response, Councillor Vaughan Watson – head of leisure and environment at the district council – said: “We agreed to consider and review the business case for the proposed crematorium at Wilbury Hills Cemetery.

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“At present the proposals are at the pre-planning stage, but we are committed to progressing the project and will be submitting an outline planning application in due course.”

Memoria’s memorial park, which sits south of Holwell and north west of Ickleford, has been four years in the planning.

It includes a chapel seating 100 people, but services are able to accommodate 200 when the foyer area is included – bringing its total capacity up to 400. There is also a car park for up to 106 vehicles and no steps, to ensure it is wheelchair accessible.

Facilities include a hearing loop to help the hearing impaired, webcam screening for those unable to attend the service in person, a music system, an organ to accompany hymns and two plasma television flat screens for either pre-recorded eulogies or rolling photographic memories.

Mr Hodgson added: “We realise we can’t remove the pain of bereavement, but we hope by offering a distinguished service in a beautiful setting, it will help make the whole process a little less stressful.

“We pride ourselves on these facilities as well as the kind, respectful and yet efficient approach of our staff and our one hour service times allowing bereaved families to have the facility to themselves, without having to encounter another funeral.”

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