Supported by Cllr Mike Benson, Sandbach resident Ann Nevitt together with neighbours Philip Brooks and David Poole, travelled to Macclesfield today 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.
Sandbach residents have been fighting to have the land adjacent to Sandbach Cemetery utilised for burials as originally intended.
As Ann explained to the Committee “We formed the “Save Sandbach Cemetery” Group as we were getting no support from our Ward Councillor, Cllr Sam Corcoran, despite significant help from the Town Council of which he is also a member.
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”
We were therefore extremely surprised but pleased that Cllr Corcoran decided to attend today and has finally agreed that a review is needed, supporting Cllr Benson’s presentation this morning.
Mr Philip Brooks explained to committee; “We know the comfort that local residents get from being able to visit the cemetery, many on a daily basis - as we discovered when working on this petition. The existing policy , asking residents to go to Crewe and Macclesfield Cemeteries in the future is at best thoughtless and at worst inhumane.”
David Poole, who collected 1,000 of the signatures, further explained; “people need to understand that the land next to the cemetery was first allocated back in 1934 and as registered in 1999, is still identified as ‘Cemetery’. We accept that the site has been temporarily used as a playing field until the land was required. That time has come.”
Cllr Mike Benson presented this item to committee this morning under the new Committee Constitution that allows elected members to identify matters of strategic and policy importance and have them included on the appropriate committee agenda.
“It’s been hard work navigating the new committee system as this is the first time an elected member has brought forward a new agenda item, but whilst initially I was aware of how important this matter was to our residents in Sandbach, it became apparent that it was equally important to other members and residents across the Borough for reasons that that had not been current when the strategy was last designed. This is why I felt so strongly that a complete review was needed.”
Alsager resident and Town Councillor Sue Helliwell spoke to committee about the Alsager situation. “Alsager’s Christchurch Graveyard is also nearing capacity. Interested stakeholders met with Cheshire East asking for support in identifying a new site which is in line with the Alsager Neighbourhood Plan. Our Neighbourhood Plan policies support initiatives that might bring forward additional graveyard capacity but to date, Cheshire East has not engaged directly further with us since 2019.
Ward Councillor Steve Edgar (Haslington) highlighted the situation in Weston. He explained; “We too have identified land for an extension to the current cemetery. However this has been delayed despite S106 monies being allocated for this, as the Borough Council consider more will be needed which is not currently available in the capital budget. Weston Parish Council is seeking permission to develop the extension themselves, but the strategy is silent on this and so, consequently, is Cheshire East.”
Finally Cllr Janet Clowes spoke in relation to her Wybunbury Ward. “There is a lack of clarity in the strategy on how the closure of graveyards is managed by Cheshire East once Parochial Church Councils have received the order of closure from the Ministry of Justice. The order was finally issued on the two Wybunbury Churchyards in May 2021 but Cheshire East, the Parish Council and Parochial councils are currently in dispute regarding long-term maintenance.”
“I believe these are the first graveyard closure orders received by Cheshire East since its inception and so this untested element of the strategy needs urgent revision as Graveyards across the Borough approach capacity.”
“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 this morning. After nearly three years, it’s an ideal time to do so.”
Despite choosing not to take the opportunity to ‘call-in’ the original decision and refusing to support his residents’ petition over recent months, Cllr Corcoran attended the meeting as a substitute committee member where he immediately proposed Cllr Benson’s proposal which was seconded and supported unanimously. Residents stated afterwards “we are pleased that a review is now underway but after months of being ignored, it is disappointing that Cllr Corcoran’s sudden change of heart was dependent on so many of us having to work so hard to get our voices heard.”
9th September 2021
Photo (viewers left to right)
Mrs Ann Nevitt. Mrs Sue Helliwell. Mr Philip Brooks. Cllr Steve Edgar. Mr David Poole. Cllr Janet Clowes
All have given permission for their contributions as written and for use of the photo taken outside Macclesfield Town Hall following today’s meeting.