NHDC accused of misleading public on need for crematorium
PUBLISHED: 12:54 12 July 2018 | UPDATED: 13:23 12 July 2018
North Herts District Council has been accused of misleading residents over plans for a new crematorium on the outskirts of Letchworth.
Memoria Limited – the operators of the North Hertfordshire Memorial Park and Crematorium, which opened near Holwell in June 2017 – said NHDC has failed to submit an independent report which concluded the need was “so small”.
Instead an in-house report has been submitted with the planning application for the site next to Wilbury Hills Cemetery in Stotfold Road, which says a new crematorium would reduce waiting and journey times – and gives projected growth as a reason for building it.
The report goes on to discuss national and local demand for cremation, highlighting that some existing crematoria in the area – Harwood Park in Stevenage, the Cambridge City Crematorium and Vale Cemetery and Crematorium in Luton – are close to full capacity.
However, Memoria has said that the independent report – which was commissioned by NHDC itself – “clearly demonstrates that there is no need for the proposed facility at Wilbury Hills”.
The independent needs assessment carried out by Cemetery Development Services found that there was a “significant crossover” with a number of competing sites and that building another crematorium would have to be made “purely on the grounds of a competitive advantage”.
The report concluded: “We believe in this case, because the need is so small and not supported further by the local funeral directors, that both the quantitative and qualitative argument is weak. On this basis the planning argument is also weak.”
Memoria’s Jamieson Hodgson said: “This less than transparent approach by NHDC only adds to our concerns about the proposals. The submitted need assessment was wholly inadequate – failing to use recognised methodology for assessing need.
“You cannot pick and choose which reports you submit purely because you don’t agree with their findings.
“NHDC is misleading the public on this application and trying to justify considerable impact on the countryside with a flawed report.”
An NHDC spokeswoman acknowledged that the council had commissioned a report, but said there were a number of concerns about the “incomplete draft report which is still outstanding”.
The council said: “Accordingly, the report is an unpublished draft document and confidential at this stage. A needs assessment was submitted to Central Bedfordshire Council, which is overseeing the application, using up to date data published by the Office of National Statistics and based on the results of three independent consultations with the public and funeral directors.”
A spokesman for Cemetery Development Services told the Comet that as far as they were concerned they had submitted a completed report, which is available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act. They also confirmed that the council had paid in full for their services.
A consultation on the plans runs until July 25 – to comment visit centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/planning.