Posted: 13.09.21 at 12:08 by Alexander Greensmith
Macclesfield Cemetery may no longer be filled with residents from afar, as councillors rethink plans.
Cheshire East Council is to reconsider their borough-wide cemetery strategy, after claims the plans are ‘at best thoughtless and at worst inhumane’.
After smaller cemeteries in Cheshire East towns were filling up fast, burying loved ones from all over our borough including outside our town was seen as a solution.
The council reviewed the strategy in 2018 and the long term proposal was that, as local cemeteries became full, families would be expected to bury their loved ones in Crewe or Macclesfield.
On Thursday, three years later, a petition signed by nearly 6,000 Sandbach residents was presented to the meeting of the environment and communities committee calling for the council to expand Sandbach Cemetery, as they did not want to be buried far away in Macclesfield, almost 20 miles away.
Macclesfield's Victorian-era Cemetery is currently set to be full by 2077, and is the second-largest capacity fill-time in Cheshire East.
2,618 people will be buried on the Prestbury Road site this year, a figure which would've been higher in the coming years if Cheshire East hadn't announced this u-turn on borough burial strategy.
Cllr Mike Benson (Sandbach Town, Con), who brought the matter to last Thursday’s committee, said: “It’s now three years since the start of the review and sufficient time has passed to better understand what was then the medium term and long term vision for burial spaces in Sandbach.
“The report which was relied upon to reach the conclusion that burials would have to go Crewe or Macclesfield, failed to advise about the availability and extent of the land adjoining the cemetery. This land has always been earmarked to provide extra capacity.”
Cllr Sam Corcoran (Lab), whose Sandbach Heath and East ward covers Sandbach Cemetery, informed councillors in a meeting last week that he had questioned the council at the time, when it was Conservative run, about this.
Resident Ann Nevitt, who organised and presented the petition, told the committee: “The petition calls for Cheshire East Council to allocate part of the land adjacent to Sandbach Cemetery to be utilised as additional burial plots as originally intended when the cemetery was established in 1934.”
She added: “That future burials would have to go to Crewe or Macclesfield is completely unacceptable for Sandbach residents.”
Sandbach resident Ann Nevitt supported by neighbours Philip Brooks and David Poole, travelled to Macclesfield to present their petition of nearly 6,000 signatures to members of the Environment and Communities Committee asking Cheshire East Council to sanction a review of the Cemeteries Strategy.
Resident Philip Brooks went on to detail the devastating impact it would have on grieving families if they had to travel from towns right across the borough to visit their loved ones’ graves in Crewe or Macclesfield.
He also highlighted that many use cemeteries daily, which would be highly inconvenient for those who would have to make a one-hour round-trip by car.
Hypothetically, Sandbach mourners who cannot drive to Macc would have had to take an hour-and-a-half train to from Macclesfield to Sandbach, with changes at Stoke-on-Trent and Crewe.
Referring to what he termed the ‘deeply flawed’ draft document, Mr Brooks said: “The original authors went to great pains to calculate travelling distances from just about everywhere in the borough to Crewe and Macclesfield cemeteries, but they only did it for funeral cortèges.
“Did they actually assume that the friends and family of those being buried would only ever want to visit the cemetery once?
“To expect the elderly, infirm, with no local support, to travel these sort of distances on public transport in order to visit the graves of their partner is at best thoughtless and at worst inhumane.”
He also asked how grieving parents who have a child buried in a cemetery, would be expected to gather their other children to cemeteries many miles away to visit that grave.
The issue also extends to Alsager, 18 miles away from Macc.
Alsager town councillor Sue Helliwell told the committee that town’s Christchurch Graveyard is nearing capacity.
“The Cheshire East Strategy report states there is no capacity for investment in cemetery provisions in the borough and encourage residents to use cemetery provision in Crewe and Macclesfield… the Alsager Neighbourhood Plan steering group considers this is an unacceptable state of affairs,” she said.
Sandbach Cemetery will likely be extended, to prevent Macc's Prestbury Road site filling up with non-Maxonian residents. No plans have been made for Alsager as of yet.
Cllr Corcoran proposed that the current cemeteries strategy across the whole borough be reviewed and the vote in support was unanimous.
Cllr Janet Clowes (Wybunbury, Con) said the two Wybunbury churchyards had been closed and clarification was needed from Cheshire East over who was responsible for the long term maintenance.
She added: "I am pleased that Cllr Corcoran acknowledged this morning, that the development of the original strategy, that was signed off by delegated decision in 2019, was conducted appropriately in line with all policy guidelines.
"But it must be recognised that even the best Council Strategies are not set in stone, they have a limited shelf-life!
“Circumstances alter and it’s good practice to review all strategies on a regular basis to accommodate change. I look forward to seeing a thorough review, in line with policy, that addresses the matters raised.
"After nearly three years, it’s an ideal time to do so.”
Ann, who can be credited to prevent Macc Cemetery filling up prematurely, added: "We were pleased that Cllr Benson agreed and succeeded in getting get this matter onto the Committee Agenda and are grateful to other Councillors and interested residents who have found that the existing strategy now needs reviewing.”
There are ten cemeteries in our borough operated by Cheshire East. Crewe's Meadow Brook Cemetery is the largest in-terms of remaining space ahead of Macc.
Ashes are also an option post-life, and the two borough crematoriums are in Macclesfield and Crewe.
Macclesfield Crematorium is adjacent to the Cemetery, in West Park.
Knutsford and Wilmslow Cemeteries will run out of space in the 2030s, and could come to Macc, which is more understandable as they are closer.
Congleton is only able to bury a few hundred every year, and may also soon come to our site.
All of which are a shorter trip than Wyndbury, Sandbach and Alsager.
Macclesfield: running out of burial space in our area’s 19th century cemeteries is an issue that is not going away.
How would you solve the burial space crisis?
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