New site in Lowestoft will ease graves ‘crisis’
- Credit: Picture: Nick Butcher
A new woodland burial site is to be created in north Lowestoft as a growing demand for graves and dwindling space at traditional cemeteries prompts warnings of a 'looming crisis'.
Plans for the 'environmentally-friendly' site on a 33-acre field in Gunton have already received consent and, over the next decade, more than 250 burials are predicted to take place on about eight acres of land, with up to 6,000 trees due to be planted from next November.
The proposals for the site, north of Hubbards Loke in Gunton, were submitted by the Parochial Church Council (PCC) of St Peter with St Benedict. After almost four years of preparation work by the PCC members, the Gunton church field group and the Gunton Woodland Community Project, a re-submitted scheme was given the go-ahead by Waveney District Council last week.
Harry Hill, head of the church field group for Gunton PCC, told The Journal: 'We're pleased that planning permission has been granted. It was back in 2009 when we first looked into developing a green environmentally-friendly woodland burial site.
'The PCC of Gunton St Peter with St Benedict decided to explore the possibility of developing a woodland burial site on part or whole of the 33-acre field belonging to the church, which is currently rented to a local tenant farmer for arable farming.
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'The churchyard of Gunton St Peter is now closed for burials and interment of ashes, except for a small garden of remembrance... Inquiries suggested that there is currently a shortage of burial spaces in Waveney, and that, although there is a limited facility for green burials in Kirkley cemetery, there seemed to be a need for a well-designed, environmentally-friendly woodland burial site in this area.'
As part of their planning, members of the PCC visited sites across East Anglia – including the green burial site at Kirkley, a woodland burial site at Aldeburgh, and the Colney woodland burial site near Norwich. They decided to base their proposals on the Arbory Trust model at Barton, Cambridgeshire, which they also visited.
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Burials will be carried out in wild flower glades, surrounded by broad-leaved trees and shrubs, with access via a 5m-wide service road constructed from crushed, rolled stone.
Mr Hill said: 'The aims are to develop an environmentally-friendly woodland burial site in the church field to provide a largely, but not exclusively, Christian service to the local and wider community; to be largely self financing and in the longer term to establish and maintain a peaceful environment as a nature reserve and for public recreation.'
He added: 'We would like this to be a community project, which is to the benefit of the church and Diocese of Norwich. It is not there to be run on a commercial basis – this is a church project for the benefit of the local community.'
A spokesman for Gunton Woodland Community Project said: 'We've put an awful lot of effort into this project and we're working very closely with the church on it. We're doing the tree planting part of it and it is going to be a major thing in north Lowestoft.
'We are very much looking forward to it and there will be nearly 6,000 trees planted in phase one alone – it is a major, major thing. We can't actually start the planting until the end of next year, hopefully around November 2014. This development, which is more than 30 acres, completes the green belt swathe around north Lowestoft.'
A Waveney council spokesman confirmed it had approved the PCC's application under delegated powers, allowing a change of use from agricultural land to the woodland burial.
The approved plans – for an initial first phase period of 10 years – cover a total of 8.4 acres with 266 burials forecast to take place spread over an area of 1.16 acres. However, the future development of the site, which covers an additional 25 acres, is subject to a future planning applications.
The council spokesman said: 'We thought that it seemed a perfectly appropriate use for the site. Although outside the development limits for Lowestoft, it will have a better appearance than most agricultural land. '
The approval comes only weeks after the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium management called on the government to change burial legislation – shelved before the last general election – to allow some graves to be reused meet demand for space across the UK.
Tim Morris, its chief executive officer, said: 'In between five and 10 years, 25pc of UK will have new burial facility. It is quite alarming really.
'Reuse is common in lots of countries and it was common practice in the UK until the 1850s. It seems reuse could be a straightforward answer to a lot of problems.
'Fewer than 30pc of people still want to be buried and where it is people's religious or personal belief, that's going to continue. We are looking at a crisis, there's a real crisis looming.'