Lach Dennis and Lostock Green residents fear a new crematorium could change their villages for ever
PUBLISHED: 14:17 08 October 2012 | UPDATED: 22:01 20 February 2013
Residents of Lach Dennis and Lostock Green fear a new crematorium could change their villages for ever, as Paul Mackenzie reports
Villagers in two idyllic Cheshire hamlets fear a new development could destroy their way of life. Residents in the neighbouring villages have joined forces to create an action group to fight the proposals which they say would bring traffic chaos to their quiet country lanes.
The planning committee at Cheshire West and Chester Council is due to meet this month to discuss the application to build a new crematorium and memorial park, dealing with up to 1000 funerals a year, on land bordering Lach Dennis and Lostock Green.
And villagers, who met members of the committee last month to share their fears, hope the proposal will be rejected. Either way, the process should make for interesting viewing next year a BBC documentary team is following the application as part of a series about the planning system.
Rosemarie Teece, of the Lach Dennis and Lostock Green Action Group, said: From fewer than 300 houses we managed to get 126 letters of objection and that is a phenomenal show of opposition to this plan.
We are very positive that we will be successful. The members of the action group put together a most impressive document outlining all the concerns of people who would be affected by the development. The dossier is 37 pages long and the depth of knowledge, research and argument put forward is a remarkable achievement it covers everything from crested newts to bereavement counselling.
We are quite well-served for crematoria in this area and none of them are over capacity some are not as modern as they could be, but they have all said that no-one has to wait very long for a cremation. We accept that more crematoria space may be necessary at some stage but we simply do not believe that this is the right place.
And Rosemarie, who runs a dress shop in Davenham, added: The application to build the crematorium says it will hold four services a day but we believe that number would increase once it is open. But even at four a day there would be many more cars on our narrow lanes and when a vehicle is parked its not possible for two cars to pass.
At the moment children can walk to the playground but with the increase in traffic on these narrow roads, that would no longer be safe.
Children could be upset by seeing all the hearses and the coffins and they are going to ask questions. By building a crematorium here they are taking away the right of families to discuss matters surrounding death when they feel its right for their children.
There is no proven need for additional crematorium facilities in Cheshire and if there were, other local sites away from residential areas would be more suitable.
We already have a funeral directors offices and a chapel of rest in the village. It is not a problem and never has been, but also having a crematorium could easily get the area nicknamed the village of the dead and who would want to live there?
The application has been submitted by Oxfordshire-based Memoria, who have previously developed six other crematoria in England and Wales and have plans for two more.
They insist that fears over an increase in traffic and the loss of village life are unfounded and point to their experience at other sites.
Business development director Jamieson Hodgson said: People think it will be very different from how it really will be. We have heard similar concerns in the past in other areas and we listen and put our side. In other cases we have been granted planning permission and we have not had a single complaint from residents once a crematorium has been in operation.
Obviously we respect their views and we dont want to upset anyone. In our experience elsewhere the crematoria become a source of pride to the local community and people would hardly know they are there. They have to be sited at least 200 yards from any dwellings, they have unobtrusive low buildings and beautifully landscaped grounds and only ten per cent of the site in Cheshire would be developed.
If it is given the go-ahead, the crematorium would host up to four services a day, each lasting 45 minutes, in a chapel which would seat 75 people. There would also be a garden of remembrance, a childrens memorial garden and a waterfall within the grounds and a car park with room for 60 vehicles.
The site between Lach Dennis and Lostock Green was selected following a consultants report in the mid-1990s which identified a need for more crematoria between Northwich and Winsford.
In this area more than 100,000 people live more than half an hour from a crematorium and developers have been looking for suitable sites in this area since that report. It is very hard to find a site that meets all the criteria for a new crematorium but we believe this site is ideal.
We are a small family firm putting 3.5million of our own money into the project and were not going to do that if were not sure its the right thing to do.
I dont think it will have the impact the action group fear it will the statistics show that the impact at other sites is very low. Most cremations take place at off-peak times between 10am and 3pm and we are not proposing for this site to be very busy.
A spokesman for Cheshire West and Chester Council said: The planning application will be considered carefully through our planning processes and all residents views will be taken into consideration as part of that process. It will be taken to a meeting of the Strategic Planning Committee where a final decision will be taken.
Cheshire West and Chester Councils planning department are set to discuss the crematorium proposal this month