Luton farmer fears for his livelihood over expansion of Vale cemetery

Land is needed to meet demand for burials

Friday, 7th January 2022, 9:59 am
Updated Friday, 7th January 2022, 10:04 am

A farmer fears for his future because of an extension to a nearby Luton cemetery to meet the local demand for burial space.

The borough council's plans to change the use of agricultural land west of Butterfield Green Road to provide a further 8,200 burial spaces were approved by the local authority's development management committee.

An attempt to defer the proposals was defeated by five votes to four, and councillors subsequently voted six-three in favour.

The site location

Manor Farm tenant farmer Lionel Shaw told the committee on January 5: "The land take will economically and operationally affect our farming business.

"The proposal would result in the landlord serving notice on us to quit the land.

"The use of Butterfield Green Road will severely hamper us accessing our farms, Manor Farm and Whitehill Farm, with tractors and agricultural machinery.

"Butterfield Green Road is a no through road and we've no alternative access."

The site location

LBC's head of planning Sunny Sahadevan said: "The capacity will last around 25 years. The town's current space will run out in 2023.

"There's a proposed gated link between the old and new part of the Vale Cemetery and Crematorium.

"The site is in flood zone three, although there's no significant risk of groundwater pollution, but further surveys are to be completed.

The site location

"The key issue is the site's sensitive location in the Green Belt and it's an area of great landscape value, with archaeological and historical heritage status. There were 22 responses, all objecting to the proposals."

Liberal Democrat Stopsley councillor David Wynn warned of "complete chaos" and called for a better scheme, suggesting an extra four passing bays and double yellow lines would be insufficient to solve the traffic issues.

Project design and delivery manager Toby Maloy said the Green Belt and area of landscape value "don't discount the development of cemeteries".

He labelled the design "as sympathetic to its rural location as possible, as well as considering its neighbours and the ecological potential of the site".

Describing it as "an important community asset", he said: "It limits the amount of road and hard landscaping.

"Naturally the development causes some loss. We're taking away a little hedgerow to create access and removing a lot of the grassland for graves. But much of the site is of low value ecologically."

Asked by town mayor and Labour Farley councillor Mahmood Hussain whether other sites were considered, he replied: "We looked at 25 sites on a desktop study. This was the clear winner."

Labour Northwell councillor Anne Donelon said: "I'm immensely concerned about parking, and how it's going to be a seamless transition from the chapel to the burial plot with people who'll be absolutely distraught and distressed.

"We need to ensure at the darkest times, when people are bereft and in emotional turmoil, we can make burying their loved ones least difficult."

Liberal Democrat Barnfield councillor David Franks remained unconvinced drainage measures would avoid "a deterioration in local flooding issues".

He called for "a considerable improvement to make sure it doesn't happen at all" on the new site.

"You can't cater for the extremes, but I'm not convinced the 20-odd parking spaces proposed here will be sufficient for most funerals," he said.

But councillor Hussain said: "There's sufficient parking near both chapels. We need this as urgently as possible."

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