Great Glen – New crematorium off London Road

The Great Glen crematorium opened (March 2017)

After more than 9 months of work, the new crematorium opened in w/b 20 March 2017.  The operators, Westerleigh, are responsible for about 30 crematoria across the UK.  The land on which the crematorium is built is part of the Co-operative Group’s landholding in the area.  Although the Co-operative Group used to own a few crematoria, they were sold to funeral services group, Dignity, in May 2016 for £43m.

crem external0317External view across car park (photo by Harborough FM).

crem internal0317Internal view of single chapel (photo by Harborough FM).

The construction begins – Summer 2016

After many years of campaigning and fighting this crematorium, the building work has now begun.  The entrance access road and pedestrian pavement are the obvious signs of the construction, as the main building and car parking works are out of sight from London Road.

New design for crematorium now proposed – September 2015

After a long period of relative inactivity over the summer, Westerleigh have now applied for a Variation of Condition to Harborough planners – Reference: 15/01314/VAC

GGcrem

This is treated like a planning application so allowing comments to be made by residents, parish council etc. The closing date for comments shown on the HDC website is 25 September. If it goes to the planning committee then the earliest date looks like being the 3 November.

You can find all the details, including updated diagrams, of the application on the HDC planning website using the reference, but I have attached one of the submitted documents which is a summary of the proposed changes.

In essence they are proposing reducing the scale of the main building by removing the second chapel and lowering the roofline/chimney a bit, plus some other alterations to windows etc. They are proposing hard wood window frames instead of aluminium, and the use of bricks to complement the existing environment. Also slight alterations to the car park but keeping it at 88 spaces.

Co-op agree deal with Westerleigh Group to build and operate crematorium

In a letter dated 24 March 2015 to Sir Edward Garnier QC MP and Dr Kevin Feltham CC, Mr Richard Pennycook, Chief Executive of the Co-operative Group, confirmed that they had agreed to work with Westerleigh Group to develop a woodland burial site, cemetery and crematorium on land south of Great Glen.

The final landscape conditions on the planning application were discharged by Harborough District Council (HDC) in early March 2015.

Westerleigh Group applied in June 2015 to HDC for 24 non material amendments (15/00899/NMA) but this was refused.  Two options remain: continue construction using the plans which have already been approved, or apply for a new design but this would involve another public consultation, decision by planners/planning committee etc.

Great Glen crematorium planning conditions approved – January 2015

Three more planning conditions were approved by HDC planners at the end of January 2015.

  • Discharge of conditions 20 (oil/petrol separators scheme), 22 (surface water drainage) and 23 (drainage strategy) of 13/01523/FUL – Land Off London Road Great Glen Leicestershire
  • Discharge of condition 21 (protection of ponds) of 13/01523/FUL – Land Off London Road Great Glen Leicestershire
  • Discharge of Condition 15 (footway details) of 13/01523/FUL. – Land Off London Road Great Glen Leicestershire

In correspondence with HDC, the Co-op have indicated that the site operator will be Westerleigh, the company who failed in their appeal for the site south of Kilby.  There is also mention that Westerleigh might need to apply for a design change, so if this is so, then any major changes would, I hope, require further public consultation.

Kilby crematorium appeal dismissed – 5th December 2014

Despite a senior manager of the Co-op allegedly stating a few months ago that South Leicestershire only needs ONE crematorium, this latest decision looks like very bad news for the many campaigners against the Great Glen crematorium.

Appeal Ref: APP/T2405/A/14/2223675 – Welford Road, Kilby, Leicestershire

In his decision dated yesterday (4 Dec 2014), Planning Inspector M Middleton dismissed the appeal, following a local hearing, by Crematorium Management Ltd (i.e. Westerleigh) against the refusal decision in July by Blaby District Council. Blaby DC refused the application principally on the grounds of recommendations from the County Council Highways department who felt the location and access off the Welford Road would contribute to an increased risk of accidents, so Highway Safety was his major concern: “ I … conclude that the proposal could be harmful to highway safety” and “…it is not appropriate to allow an additional access off this road, particularly one that would be used by a significant amount of traffic.”

In conclusion the Inspector stated: “I conclude that the proposal would be harmful to highway safety and the character and appearance of the countryside. This is not a sustainable location and the siting of a public facility such as a crematorium in a location that has not got any access by public transport or is easy to walk or cycle to is contrary to the objectives of the Framework and the appropriate policies of the Blaby CS. I therefore find for the reasons discussed above and having taken account of all of the other matters raised, including the representations from local residents, both verbally at the Hearing and in correspondence, that the appeal should be dismissed.”

There have been strong rumours that the Co-op have been negotiating to sell on their site off London Road to either Memoria (Countesthorpe crematorium developers who are due to open their facility in February 2015, and who wanted to protect their business), or Westerleigh (the now failed Kilby crematorium appeal developers, who also wish to run a crematorium in South Leicestershire).

Now that the Kilby appeal has been dismissed, I expect any alleged negotiations to be concluded quite quickly – one way or another. With regard to the Great Glen planning application, there are still some planning conditions to be finally discharged by Harborough District Council, but I doubt these will present a crematorium developer with any major issues. The timetable for construction is expected to be 9-12 months from start.

We await therefore any further news and whether the Co-op do eventually sell off the site. Of course, any new site owners might not be entirely happy with the design etc., so there may yet have to be another planning application or variation!

Great Glen crematorium start date missed – 13th October 2014

The Co-op’s contractors were due to start work on the London Road site on 6th October 2014.  According to the planning officer at HDC, there are some outstanding issues with the discharge of conditions imposed as part of the planning permission process.  Issues still to be resolved include:

  • Earth bunds to protect (visual and sound) the crematorium from Stoneygate School and vice versa. The height of 2.5m was agreed as part of the planning permission, but the management plan for the site shows them as only 1.5-1.8m high.  The Co-op have been given a date to respond by.
  • Gates off the C32 public right of way – this condition has been discharged, but questions still remain over why the gate nearest to Orchard Lane is a five bar wide agricultural gate instead of a small gate suitable for pedestrians only.
  • Times of operation – the planning permission included a condition that when operational the crematorium would operate 8am to 6pm weekdays, 8am to 1pm Saturdays and no operations on Sundays or bank holidays. The Co-op want to start construction days at 7am.

There is also a strong rumour that the Co-op are in discussions with other crematorium operating companies about possibly selling the site with planning permission to another operator.

In the meantime, the construction of the Countesthorpe crematorium continues. A Judicial Review hearing, brought by Westerleigh, is due to be heard on 22 October. This relates to the way the Planning Inspector ran the appeal and specifically that a public hearing was not agreed by Memoria, the operators.

Westerleigh have appealed against the refusal of planning permission for their crematorium site off the A5199 south of Kilby.  There will be a public hearing for this appeal, so the ludicrous fact that there could be three crematoria operating within 6 miles will be discussed at that hearing no doubt.

In the meantime letters have been sent to the new Co-op Group chief executive, Mr Richard Pennycook, to reinforce the local opposition and provide facts about the effect on their ongoing business if another crematorium begins operations at least 9 months ahead of Great Glen.


 

Countesthorpe crematorium build now upto roof – 2 Sept 2014

Countesthorpe crem

VERY DISAPPOINTING NEWS – 15th August 2015

This week the Co-op issued more planning documents – now on the HDC planning portal (14/01076/PCD – Discharge of Condition 3 (Materials), 14/01077/PCD – Discharge of Condition 10 (Gates) and 14/01097/PCD – Discharge of Condition 16 (Construction Management Plan)) – which give details of the materials, the gateway off London Road and more importantly the Construction Traffic Management Plan.

The commencement date (if the planning authority approve the proposals) will be 6th October 2014.  The construction is estimated to take 45 weeks, so it should be completed by the Autumn 2015.  This despite the ongoing construction of a competing crematorium only 6 miles away in Countesthorpe.

The 14/01077 Gates document shows three entrance gateways (five bar softwood for the maintenance access) off the public footpath off Orchard Lane.  Although intended, I assume, for mourners and villagers to access the memorial gardens, it does mean some mourners might try and park on Orchard Lane to avoid parking on the main crematorium site for very large funerals.

A contractor for the construction works has not been appointed by The Co‐operative Group. The Contractor, when appointed, will have to produce a Construction Method Statement (CMS) for each phase of the construction works, which will seek to limit the effect of construction traffic movements on the local highway network.  All parking will be on site where a secure compound will be constructed; I will be asking the Co-op to ensure there can be no access, including for dogs, off the footpath that crosses the field.

The hours of construction operation are proposed as follows:
Monday – Friday   0700 – 1800;
Saturday    0700 – 1300; and
No works shall take place in Sundays or Bank Holidays

I am surprised about the length of day working and the Saturday working as the Planning Inspector, although giving permission, did include clear planning conditions especially the operating times i.e. Cremation/funeral services shall only operate between the hours of 09:30 to 16:00 hours Monday to Friday.  This might be something to raise with the planning authority, as there will clearly be disturbance to residents by the construction day length, and Saturday working.

The Co-op estimate a peak of 5 HGVs per working day (averaging 2 or 3) during the 45 week construction period.  HGVs will be advised to access the site from the east avoiding the build‐up areas of Great Glen, so they will be routed via the A6 Burton Overy junction so as to avoid coming through the village, BUT will be passing Stoneygate School entrance/exit. HGVs will be encouraged to avoid peak periods and school start / end times. I fear this may be difficult to control, but is something neighbours can monitor and record.

Also depending upon the origin / destination of construction traffic, vehicles may have to make U‐turn manoeuvres at the Station Road (Archers) roundabout and also the Kibworth Harcourt roundabout en‐route to / from the site.

I am very concerned that despite all the controls envisaged by the Co-op, still some HGVs and construction traffic will end up coming through the village.  During the main initial construction of the Stretton Road Miller Homes development there were major problems with noisy HGVs disturbing residents and also mud on the road.  The Co-op have stated there will be wheel washing before vehicles go onto the highways network, but again something to be monitored and recorded.

4th August – Co-op Farms sold!

BBC Breakfast TV announced at 8am this morning that the Wellcome Trust health charity has purchased the Co-op Farms estate for around £249m – also an article on the Guardian website.  It is understood that this includes all 15 farms, and includes their Stoughton Estate too. Only in May the Farmers Weekly speculated the sale of the farms would bring in some £140m, so if the Co-op has managed to obtain a further £100m+ then the deal is good for them. The Co-op recently announced they had sold their Pharmacy business for £620m to the Bestway Group. Together these two sales hardly dent their £2.5bn losses, but should give them more time to re-finance their banking business.

The sale includes 39,533 acres (16,000 hectares) of land, 15 farms, more than 100 residential properties, as well as some 27 commercial properties.  All existing farms management and employees will transfer to Wellcome.

The Wellcome Trust has pledged to maintain existing services for local communities, such as the educational programme for children – “Farm to Fork”.  The sale includes more than 100 residential properties and 27 commercial buildings. The farms are at Aberdeenshire, Ashby St Ledgers, Blairgowrie, Borders, Carnoustie, Coldham, Down Ampney, Goole, Highland Court, Langley Brook, Longforgan, Louth, Rockingham, Stoughton, Tillington and Wykeham.

The Wellcome Trust has a large investment portfolio, including property worth £1.8bn, which helps fund its charitable work to drive improvements in human and animal health. The Wellcome Trust said it would be a responsible landowner although it would not sign up to the Co-op’s ethical guidelines.  Peter Pereira Gray, managing director of investments at the Wellcome Trust, said: “The Co-operative has its own form of ethics; we wouldn’t necessarily seek to be exactly replicating theirs. We have our own very high standards.”

The Wellcome Trust has owned agricultural land for many years but this deal represents a huge increase in its holdings. Pereira Gray said: “This is a different scale of acquisition for us.”

The Co-op says it will now focus on its core retail and consumer divisions, including food, insurance and legal services, and its funeral business. So although they have sold their farms, we also know the sale does not include the field off London Road where the Co-op obtained planning permission for the crematorium on appeal.  This is part of some 200 acres that the Co-op have retained.

Petition against crematorium

Parents and staff at Stoneygate School will be aware that a petition was started by pupils before the end of term and following the launch of their short video campaigning against the crematorium next to the school. Here is the link to the short YouTube video – http://youtu.be/QdphIkOIfx0 and then there is a link from there to the petition, or use this link: http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/the-co-operative-please-do-not-build-a-crematorium-next-to-stoneygate-school-2 .  Having read the petition, and signed up, along with over 300 others, I believe that this is the route people who object to the crematorium location should take.  A separate ‘village’ petition is therefore unnecessary.

This is the wording of the petition:
It is not appropriate to have a crematorium next to a child’s school.

The crematorium will not only have burial areas, but also a place to incinerate the dead. This releases chemical fumes, which could damage the health of the children at Stoneygate. Even though the Co-op insists that the fumes will not harm the children, there is still the worry.

Also, a bypass was made to take away some traffic from the village of Great Glen, where the crematorium is to be placed, and the crematorium shall only increase the traffic again, with funeral cars travelling through Great Glen, and past the school.

The Co-operative has somehow managed to find permission to build this crematorium, despite much objection from members of the public, as well as parents and pupils from Stoneygate School.

Unless we make the Co-op see sense in time, they shall build the crematorium.

This subject has already caused much trouble and distress to members of the village of Great Glen, and the parents and pupils from Stoneygate School.

Please support the current and future pupils of Stoneygate, and sign this petition.

Update about the remaining two crematoria sites

Blaby DC planning committee have refused the Kilby site – so it is expected to go to appeal. The refusal was an officer recommendation and based on LCC Highways who said access off A5199 was unsafe, despite the land being owned by the County Council!  Suppose this shows the impartiality of the Highways people.

The Countesthorpe crematorium construction continues. I haven’t driven along Foston Road recently but they were clearing the land ready for foundations when I drove past a month or so ago.

I’m sure there will be more comment about the sale of the Stoughton Estate and we do need to confirm whether this includes the field off London Road, but for now it looks like nothing is likely to happen regarding the Great Glen crematorium for a while yet – fingers crossed.

2 July – Stoneygate School students video against crematorium

Year 8 pupils from Stoneygate School: Sam A, Sam N, Matt B, Will F, and Artus took the opportunity in Film Week to produce a video campaigning against the Co-op’s plans to build a crematorium next to their school. You can watch their 4 minute video here, on YouTube: http://youtu.be/QdphIkOIfx0

Great Glen Crematorium – News July 2014

Thank you to the many people who attended the public meting organised by Great Glen Parish Council on a very wet evening of 4th June. Although it was not possible to take forward a judicial review of the Planning Inspector’s decision to permit the Co-op’s crematorium for London Road, the meeting supported plans for a petition and lobbying of the Co-operative Group.

Sir Edward Garnier QC MP wrote to the then Planning Minister, Nick Boles, explaining the concerns about the location next to Stoneygate School and because there could be a situation with three crematoria within 6 miles. The minister, in his reply, quoted the Planning Inspector’s view that the market should determine which site or sites come forward. Effectively this means that development of one of the other sites might mean the Co-op might decide not to build their crematorium as they could only win a part of the business for south Leicestershire; this might not make the project financially viable. The minister also pointed out that Neighbourhood Plans (see below) are available so that communities can help shape development to meet the needs of the local area.

The construction of the Countesthorpe crematorium is well underway. On 26th June the Kilby planning application by Westerleigh was refused by Blaby District Council planning committee primarily because of the Highways Authority’s concerns about slow moving funeral traffic and road safety on the A5199.

Year 8 pupils from Stoneygate School have been very active: a 4 minute video has been published on YouTube giving the children’s views against the crematorium being built next to their school, a petition asking the Co-op not to build has over 310 names at the time of writing, and pupils have also been writing individual letters to the Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Although the school’s petition is focussed on the concerns of the pupils, parents and staff, I have signed it as I believe it covers the basic facts that the location for this crematorium is wrong. I encourage readers to watch the video on YouTube – http://youtu.be/QdphIkOIfx0 , and to sign the petition – the link is given just below the video.