Debate over plans for new Norwich cemetery

Proposals for a new cemetery on the outskirts of Norwich come at a time when it is predicted that Earlham and Rosary cemeteries, the two cemeteries within Norwich's boundaries, will be full within three years.

Those responsible for the plans for the Canhams Hill Cemetery say it will help provide burial provision for the city for the next century and beyond.

They also say that the site, at Canhams Hill, Bradshaw Road, off Reepham Road, Drayton, would enhance biodiversity and wildlife.

Simon Woodbridge, below, owner of Canham Hill Cemetery Ltd and leader of Broadland District Council, said: 'Many cemeteries are nearly at full capacity and this is a recognised national problem. We're bringing this application to ensure that we provide for the future needs of our communities looking forward 100 years.

'The plans would enable us to provide a location for all faiths and denominations and to provide people with choice. The site would provide 40 acres of traditional grave space as well as 30 acres of woodland burial ground.'

The cemetery, which, if given the go-ahead would be the first new cemetery for the city since Earlham opened in 1856, would include a gathering hall for funerals to be held, a cemetery office, parking facilities and waiting rooms for families.

The application for a change of use of agricultural land and woodland to provide a cemetery is certainly seen by some as a solution to the city's current burial crisis.

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The Ven Jan McFarlane, spokesman for the diocese of Norwich, said: 'Although seven out of 10 people now choose to be cremated, burial is still a popular option – but increasingly we are running out of burial space. We're supportive of a new cemetery and look forward to being involved in the plans.'

But Shelagh Gurney, a Broadland district councillor, parish and county councillor for Hellesdon, said she has mixed views about the application.

She said: 'I think we all have to accept that there's a need for a facility of this type to serve Norwich and its surround. However, in being a private enterprise, my concern is affordability – its going to be a lot more expensive.'

Mrs Gurney said she was also concerned the facility might mean that Hellesdon Parish Council loses the opportunity to get some much needed amenity land.

There have also been concerns raised about the proximity of the proposed application to the existing St Faith's Crematorium and the implications it might have on traffic in the area.

One person living in Hellesdon, who did not want to be named, said: 'Yes, Earlham Cemetery is becoming full. But why have one so close to St Faith's Crematorium? Have the council considered the traffic implications and have we, the residents of Hellesdon, been asked our opinions? The site is close to a school and could be very distressing for pupils that attend.'

Norwich City Council had been speaking to Broadland as well as South Norfolk Council, Dignity Funerals and Costessey-based Colney Woodland Burial Park to see if new sites could be provided further out of the city.

Mr Woodbridge added: 'The aim is to provide an environmentally friendly option for families as many people are seeking to lessen their impact on the environment and recognise that cremation uses scarce resources.

'We want future generations to look back and recognise the commitment of this facility to create a sustainable legacy for them.'

Although Mr Woodbridge is the leader of the council which will make the planning decision, he says that he has declared an interest on the issue and will not be voting on the planning application.

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