nantwich cemetery

Cheshire East is to reconsider its borough-wide cemetery strategy after claims the plans are “at best thoughtless and at worst inhumane”, writes Belinda Ryan.

The council reviewed the strategy in 2018 and a long term proposal was that families would have to bury loved ones in Crewe or Macclesfield as other local cemeteries became full.

But three years later, a petition signed by nearly 6,000 Sandbach residents was presented to the meeting of the environment and communities committee calling for the council to expand Sandbach Cemetery.

Cllr Mike Benson, who brought the matter to committee, said: “It’s now three years since the start of the review and sufficient time has passed to better understand what was then the medium term and long term vision for burial spaces in Sandbach.

“The report which was relied upon to reach the conclusion that burials would have to go Crewe or Macclesfield, failed to advise about the availability and extent of the land adjoining the cemetery.

“This land has always been earmarked to provide extra capacity.”

Cllr Sam Corcoran (Lab) said he had questioned the council at the time, when it was Conservative run, about this.

Resident Ann Nevitt, who organised and presented the petition, said: “The petition calls for Cheshire East Council to allocate part of the land adjacent to Sandbach Cemetery to be utilised as additional burial plots as originally intended when the cemetery was established in 1934.

“That future burials would have to go to Crewe or Macclesfield is completely unacceptable for Sandbach residents.”

Resident Philip Brooks went on to detail the devastating impact it would have on grieving families if they had to travel from towns across the borough to visit loved ones’ graves in Crewe or Macclesfield.

Mr Brooks, who termed the draft document ‘deeply flawed’, added: “The original authors went to great pains to calculate travelling distances from just about everywhere in the borough to Crewe and Macclesfield cemeteries, but they only did it for funeral cortèges.

“Did they actually assume friends and family of those being buried would only ever want to visit the cemetery once?

“To expect the elderly, infirm, with no local support, to travel these sort of distances on public transport in order to visit the graves of their partner is at best thoughtless and at worst inhumane.”

He also asked how parents who have a child buried in a cemetery would be expected to get their other children to cemeteries miles away to visit that grave.

Alsager town councillor Sue Helliwell said the town’s Christchurch Graveyard is nearing capacity.

“The Cheshire East Strategy report states there is no capacity for investment in cemetery provisions in the borough and encourage residents to use cemetery provision in Crewe and Macclesfield… the Alsager Neighbourhood Plan steering group considers this is an unacceptable state of affairs.”

Cllr Steve Edgar (Haslington Con) said Weston Parish Council is seeking permission to develop an extension to the cemetery itself after identifying land.

And Cllr Janet Clowes (Wybunbury, Con) said the two Wybunbury churchyards had been closed and clarification was needed from Cheshire East over who was responsible for the long term maintenance.

She said: “I believe these are the first graveyard closure orders received by Cheshire East since its inception and so this untested element of the strategy needs urgent revision as graveyards across the borough approach capacity.

“Circumstances alter and it’s good practice to review all strategies on a regular basis to accommodate change.

“I look forward to seeing a thorough review, in line with policy, that addresses the matters raised. After nearly three years, it’s an ideal time to do so.”

Cllr Corcoran proposed that the current cemeteries strategy across the whole borough be reviewed and the vote in support was unanimous.

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