Tory controlled East Cambs Council votes in secret for crematorium, woodland burial area and even a pet cemetery at Mepal outdoor centre - Lib Dems are furious

PUBLISHED: 22:43 31 July 2020 | UPDATED: 10:35 05 August 2020

Mepal Outdoor Centre. Aerial shots taken today (July 31) show the extent of the grounds. Picture; TERRY HARRIS

Mepal Outdoor Centre. Aerial shots taken today (July 31) show the extent of the grounds. Picture; TERRY HARRIS

Archant

Ten years after Fenland Council argued – and then blocked – a second crematorium at Chatteris, their East Cambs Council neighbours confirmed they will build a rival £6m crematorium at Mepal.

Mepal Outdoor Centre. Aerial shots taken today (July 31) show the extent of the grounds. Picture; TERRY HARRISMepal Outdoor Centre. Aerial shots taken today (July 31) show the extent of the grounds. Picture; TERRY HARRIS

Just six miles from Chatteris, the crematorium – that will include a pet cemetery – was revealed following six months of planning and a decision made behind closed doors at the insistence of the ruling Tory group.

A vigorous bid by opposition Lib Dem councillors to get the principle of redevelopment of Mepal Outdoor Leisure was rejected.

Lib Dems also wanted a week’s delay to allow more time for debate but council leader Anna Bailey slapped them down claiming any delay “could put the project at risk”.

A woodland burial area will also be created at Mepal- the whole project to be run by the council’s own trading arm.

Mepal Outdoor Centre. Aerial shots taken today (July 31) show the extent of the grounds. Picture; TERRY HARRIS Mepal Outdoor Centre. Aerial shots taken today (July 31) show the extent of the grounds. Picture; TERRY HARRIS

Cllr Bailey said it would offer not only a sustainable use for the area “but provide certainty for local people who have been concerned about the levels of anti-social behaviour at the site, including two arson attacks”.

She said the outline plan includes the creation of eight jobs, with recruitment focussed on local people.

“It will also provide local access to cremation and burial services, which are not currently available in the district,” she said.

A hint at under cutting Fenland crematorium was provided in her statement that Mepal would offer residents “a local alternative in an attractive setting, to enable better value for money and help alleviate growing concerns about the costs of funeral arrangements”.

The council’s Community Infrastructure Levy is expected to fund nearly half the proposed cost, with the council borrowing the remainder.

Nothing was heard of a previous bid to continue to use it as an outdoor leisure centre although I understand the company made an offer but later revised it. They are thought to have asked for financial help to maintain it as an outdoor leisure centre but the council felt unable to do so.

“We invited expressions of interest and got to the stage where we had chosen an operator, but for various reasons, the operator was unable to deliver their proposal for the site,” said Cllr Bailey.

For six months council officials have been drawing up a business plan and will now provide what Cllr Bailey describes as “a vital service they have previously had to travel out of the district for”.

She believes that from year one the crematorium will make money for the council.

“It will be operated by the council’s trading company East Cambs Street Scene and will provide income for the council,” she said.

The crematorium will include:

125 seat chapel with views out to the landscape setting of the site

A small 12 seat side chapel for smaller ceremonies

An electric cremator powered largely by on site generated renewable energy

80+ parking spaces for crematorium visitors

A pet cemetery discretely located away from the crematorium

A modular function building to support the woodland burial area

Cllr Bailey added: “The council will continue to communicate with residents as this poignant project moves forward.

Lib Dem councillor Mark Inskip said: “East Cambs District Council has now published details of the decisions made behind closed doors this evening.

“Cllr Lorna Dupré and I argued for the main debate to be in public but that was voted down. We pushed for other options for the outdoor centre to be explored. We didn’t support the plans to use the site for a crematorium.”

Lib Dem councillor Simon Harries said: “Yes, we’ve been fooled and bamboozled but this is not the end of the story.”

And he tweeted that “the only poignant part of this is the level of manipulation needed to get this far. Please don’t abuse our language as well as our politics”.

Mepal parish council chairman Brian Rollason said: “All Mepal outdoor centre needed was a forward-thinking council member in charge of amenities to bring it up to date and back into service for the people of Ely and the surrounding areas.

“If this had happened it would have brought money back into the council coffers.”


If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Cambs Times. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Cambs Times