Controversial green belt crematorium plan set for debate

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New Milton crematorium
A computer generated image depicting how the crematorium might look

CONTROVERSIAL plans to build a crematorium on green belt land in New Milton will be debated at a public meeting in the wake of a fresh application.

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The resurgence comes three years after New Forest District Council granted outline planning permission for a single-chapel crematorium with parking and landscaping on land east of Stem Lane and north of Great Woar Copse.

As reported in the A&T, the proposal proved contentious among residents, with hundreds signing a petition against it and a campaign group set up to fight it.

Objections included pollution fears, that the development was an inappropriate use of green belt land, and there would be an unacceptable rise in vehicle movements.

However, others welcomed the proposal, saying it would relieve some of the pressure on the crematoriums in Bournemouth and Southampton.

Also with a rising population and the building of new homes, it was argued a local facility would save mourners having to travel so far from New Milton and nearby areas.

Developer Westerleigh Group submitted the reserved matters application earlier this month, saying its vision is to “provide a high-quality crematorium”.

It added: “Its development has been driven by the desire to create a building which has been designed to complement and enhance the character of the local area.”

This bid for a 130-seat building, to hold about 1,200 services a year, features some amendments to the scheme previously put forward by the New Forest Crematorium Company.

The most significant change is the removal of the conical roof after technical reviews of the cremator equipment concluded the flue did not need to be as high as previously thought. A new roof lantern form has been designed instead, cutting down the scale of the original, 15-metre high outline design.

Westerleigh’s development manager, Ed Aldridge, said that in addition to the reduced building height, the firm had suggested improved landscaping and better positioning of car parking. He also revealed the construction work was expected to begin in mid-2020.

“These changes will see the pavilion sit calmly within the landscape, making it a more welcoming place to visit on what is often a very difficult day for friends and relatives,” Mr Aldridge explained.

“We have made significant progress putting in place plans for the development of the crematorium.

“Families will not have to wait too much longer before they will be able to make use of a top-class facility, run to the highest standards and within a reasonable car journey of home. We will begin construction in the middle of next year.

““We are determined to make the facility one which everyone can be proud of, and we are looking forward to discussing the finer details of the scheme with officers of the council as well as elected representatives.”

Mr Aldridge also invited any members of the public with questions about the scheme to contact him by emailing EAldridge@westerleighgroup.co.uk

When the scheme was first raised and gained outline approval, it was headed by newly-formed organisation the New Forest Crematorium Company. Its company director was Jeremy Hinton, group development director of the site’s landowner Meyrick Estate Management Ltd.

But speaking to the A&T this week, Mr Hinton explained that after gaining the approval the company decided against running a crematorium and the scheme was handed over to Westerleigh Group, a Bristol-based crematoria and cemetery developer.

“The complexities of running good high-quality crematorium facilities are immense,” Mr Hinton explained.

“We decided on balance that Westerleigh reflected our own feelings of how the building should be operated and understand how we want a crematorium to be run.

“We wouldn’t have wanted to do a botched job.”

Although the New Forest Crematorium Company is officially still active, Mr Hinton said it was expected to be effectively dissolved soon.

Several letters from residents sharing views both for and against the crematorium have been lodged with NFDC.

One is from Laura Weaver, who back in 2016 acted as a spokesperson in a campaign against the proposal while she was living in nearby Doe Copse Way, which included a protest in Stem Lane.

Having since moved further away to Herbert Road, she again voiced her objection but said she had become resigned to the idea that the scheme would go ahead anyway.

“We do need another crematorium, but not at the top of Stem Lane,” she wrote. “It’s the most stupid place to put it.

“Meyricks have so much land on the A35 away from residential areas, hidden away.

“I feel for all the residents that live nearby and the residents that have moved in and are none the wiser. I am so glad I moved. There’s no point in fighting this anymore because the councils are not interested.”

However, a resident supporting the scheme wrote: “I don’t think it will impact badly on the local area and I would fully support the planning application.

“I had to wait over three weeks to cremate my mother all the way over in Bournemouth. The New Forest would benefit greatly from this proposal.”

New Milton Town Council’s planning committee will discuss the application in a public meeting at 6.30pm on Thursday 21st November.

Due to the anticipated high interest, it will be held at New Milton Memorial Centre in Whitefield Road, instead of the town hall.

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