Decision due on controversial burial ground plans in Walsall
A controversial plan to allow a natural burial ground in Walsall to carry out one service per day has been recommended for approval.
Bosses at the facility on Winterley Lane in Rushall want to change the frequency of burials from 50 per year to one per day, saying there was a need for the cemetery in the area.
But the proposal sparked fury amongst nearby residents and local councillors who were worried about the impact on traffic and road safety as well as environmental concerns.
Planning chiefs deferred the decision at a stormy meeting last month to allow for further assessments to be carried out to help alleviate concerns.
In a report to this Thursday’s planning meeting, officer Barbara Toy has recommended approval be finally granted.
She said burials would take place in off-peak hours between 10am and 3pm while the Rushall site would see less traffic visiting than other cemeteries.
She said: “The Winterley Lane Road is capable of facilitating vehicles during the services which will take place in off-peak hours and has been approved by the Highways Authority.
“Data collected from the traffic survey suggests that, under the worst-case forecast, during a service added to the current traffic flows, the Winterley Lane Road would receive less traffic than in peak hours at 5pm on a weekday.
“Added to that, the applicant has added infrastructure to the roads by providing passing bays which were accepted in the previous planning submission.
“Based on detailed research and evidence of both local municipal cemeteries and existing similar natural burial grounds, parking facilities at Winterley Lane are more than sufficient to sustain the traffic flows to the site.”
Some councillors from across the chamber voiced their concerns about the proposal and defeated the recommendation to approve by eight votes to six at the previous planning committee.
But chairman Mike Bird said they had failed to provide sufficient planning reasons for refusal and added the authority could be hit with huge costs if the case went to appeal.
Residents, who have signed petitions against the plan, also packed out the public gallery at Walsall Council House at the meeting.
Councillors could still go against the recommendation and refuse the scheme.
Ruth Meeke, who owns farmland next to the site, and has led campaigns against the development, said the increase was being done to improve the financial viability of the site for the applicants Aldridge Construction Engineering Limited.
She said: “We accept there is nothing we can do to change the fact that the burial ground has permission to exist and can carry out 50 burials per year. But Rushall says no more.”