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£6.5m Mepal crematorium wins planning approval

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Mepal Crematorium won planning approval from East Cambridgeshire District Council planning committee.

East Cambridgeshire District Council made the application.

The planning committee heard today that the estimated £6.5m crematorium will be built on the site of the former Mepal Outdoor Centre.

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It is expected to be used for up to five cremations daily.

The committee heard that a full business case will be required to be approved by full council.

“I am dubious about it, will not serve the southeast or southwest, anything below it will not serve,” Cllr John Trapp told the planning committee.

But Cllr Lis Every said it had been a “tortuous hard process” to get to this stage, but she felt people would be proud of it in this area.

Cllr Bill Hunt said: “When we ask and consult with local councils, they don’t have a control on what we do in East Cambs but we have consulted and not had any objections.”

He said highways had no objections and with more houses being built and with no crematorium in East Cambs, and the population is increasing and 80 per cent of people electing cremation, he supported the application.

The application was approved by 7 votes to 1.

Planning consultant Oliver Bell said there had been some opposition to the change of use but overall, it had found support – including from local funeral directors.

He said there was a “clear framework to preserve and enhance biodiversity” with the multiple uses of the site.

And it would provide a “holistic bereavement service to the local community”.

He said some opposition was linked to its previous use but there was some support from local funeral directors.

Cllr Bill Hunt reminded the committee that a working party had tried, without success, to find operators to continue it an outdoor centre.

Cllr Hunt said the one serious applicant later withdrew but over the years, and despite letting it out for a peppercorn rent, “various operators returned the keys”. He said there had been a change in needs and uses.

The planning committee was read a lengthy objection from local councillors Mark Inskip and Lorna Dupré.

“The Mepal Outdoor Centre site was, for more than three decades, a well-used and valued community outdoor leisure facility,” they said.

“If this application for a crematorium and associated elements is approved then the potential for meaningful outdoor leisure will be lost at the site.

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“The few future leisure opportunities suggested are very much ancillary to the main purpose, reflected in the provision of just six parking spaces.

“Whilst previous attempts to find an operator for the site to continue outdoor leisure facilities were not successful, alternative operating models have not been extensively explored which may have been more viable.

“The district council had also not considered any new investment, as could have been provided by allocating just a small proportion of the Community Infrastructure Levy receipts it holds from new developments in the surrounding area.

“It should also be noted that post-COVID there is an increased focus on outdoor leisure facilities.”

The full planning application approved is for construction of a crematorium and associated service and administration building, function building, memorial garden, natural burial areas, pet cemetery, car parking, new vehicular access from the A142 north of the site and landscaping.

The committee were also given figures for burial and internment which suggest 20 burials each year over the 15-year period, as follows: • 294 natural burials; • 290 in-ground ash internment; • 120 pet burial; • Provision for ash scattering.

In the Statement of Community Involvement, it was noted that just 13.0% of respondents supported the proposals with 85.4% opposed to them.

The committee was told: “The survey of funeral directors undertaken by the applicant elicited just 11 responses, with eight suggesting they would consider using alternative facilities in the area if they became available.

“Transport implications and particularly road safety issues are of particular concern for this location.

“The applicant acknowledges that there will be a significant increase in traffic movements from the site compared to the existing approved use.”

The planning committee heard today that the estimated £6.5m crematorium will be built on the site of the former Mepal Outdoor Centre.

The planning committee was told that East Cambs officers had been working with the Wildlife Trust to ensure the protected species and habitats are not compromised by the proposed development and have proposed mitigation measures.

“The land to the north of the buildings, now demolished, would be retained in passive recreational use, i.e., controlled dog walking, licensed angling and bird watching,” said their report.

“A secondary access to the north of the site would be re-instated and enhanced to provide direct access to this part of the site.

“It would take the form of a layby feature within the site, with a limited amount of parking, so vehicles would turn left upon entering and again upon egressing the site. The northern entrance would be left hand turn only.

“The northern area would therefore not change use and still be used for recreational and nature conservation purposes. It would be separated and segregated from the proposed development.

“The area to the south, formerly used by the activity centre buildings and parking areas, would now form the proposed development area which would be accessed via the existing entrance with ‘no-through’ traffic allowed to the north of the site. This entrance would also be left hand turn only.”

The committee heard that all existing buildings at Mepal have now been demolished and the materials removed.

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