Residents and councillors express shock over council proposal to create crematorium at Firs Farm Recreation Ground, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter
A plan to create a “world-class sports village” is at “serious risk” after Enfield Council revealed a crematorium could be built on playing fields, a residents’ group has warned.
Friends of Firs Farm called on the council to provide “urgent clarification” on how part of Firs Farm Recreation Ground in Winchmore Hill had been earmarked as a suitable site for a crematorium in its recently-published draft Local Plan.
Since 2014, local volunteers have helped transform the patch of little-used green space at Firs Farm into a popular park, and the council has spent more than £1million creating a wetlands area within the park.
But the draft Local Plan reveals land currently used as playing fields and a car park could be turned into a crematorium, which the friends group warns could scupper plans to create a community hub and sports facilities.
Toni Guiver, trustee and chair of Friends of Firs Farm, said: “We await urgent clarification from Enfield Council as to how Firs Farm has been shortlisted for a crematorium in the draft Local Plan on a location already designated for community use.
“Firs Farm Wetlands is a site of important ecological significance in a residential area, with close proximity to three schools. So many people have worked hard since 2014 to create this valued community asset and flood relief scheme that ticks all boxes: health, education and environment, recreation, biodiversity and sports.”
The council’s Local Plan also shortlists Firs Farm as a potential site for a “world-class sport village”, which would allow “the development of first-class, publicly accessible strategic sport and leisure facilities to meet the needs of the growing population”.
Toni warned: “Unless Firs Farm is withdrawn from the shortlist of sites for a new crematorium with immediate effect, removing the uncertainty, funds already earmarked for the development of the community hub and the sports facilities are at serious risk.”
The row marks the latest controversy to hit the ongoing draft Local Plan consultation, which has already been criticised over proposals to build more than 6,000 homes on Green Belt land. Housing campaign group Better Homes Enfield recently branded a consultation on the plan “not fit for purpose” after highlighting a list of “serious” issues with the documents provided.
Dinah Barry, a Winchmore Hill councillor and leader of opposition group Community First, branded the crematorium proposal “appalling” and said Firs Farm had made a “huge contribution to the mental and physical health of people in Enfield and the education of many of our children”.
Cllr Barry added: “That Firs Farm is Metropolitan Open Land, giving it the same level of protection as the Green Belt, probably means little to the current administration given their current plans to build on the Green Belt. However, the proposal also makes no sense in terms of the council’s own aspiration to provide a ‘world-class sports village’ at Firs Farm.
“The proposal is an insult to everyone who has worked so hard and to all of us who love and value the park. It is also astonishingly insensitive to those using the nearby North London Hospice.”
A council spokesperson said: “We can categorically state that irrespective of whether or not any of these plans are taken forward Enfield Council will not be building on Firs Farm Wetlands – a cherished and much appreciated asset.
“Enfield Council has invested significant time and funds into in partnership with the Friends of Firs Farm in order to produce a beautiful community facility for residents across the borough.
“Additionally, we can confirm that the plans the Friends of Firs Farm and Enfield Council have put together for a café and other facilities at Firs Farm will not be affected.
“We are pleased we were able to work with the Friends of Firs Farm to secure Sport England and other funding for these facilities, and we will continue to work with them to ensure they come forward.
“Enfield Council is currently exploring options around burial capacity and after life provision. We are looking to find land on which to build a crematorium and/or a burial ground. To date, we have identified three potential sites in our draft Local Plan: the area to the south of Firs Farm Wetlands, but not on the wetlands themselves; or Church Street Recreation Ground for a crematorium; or Sloemans Farm for a burial ground.
“For a crematorium, this work has not progressed past looking into our options and identifying potential areas. Any plans would require planning permission.”