Grave concerns over council’s burials plan

Questions raised over suitability of proposed new graveyard in Crews Hill, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Hertford Road Cemetery is among the existing graveyards in Enfield, but the council is rapidly running out of burial space
Hertford Road Cemetery is among the existing graveyards in Enfield, but the council is rapidly running out of burial space

A farm within Enfield’s Green Belt is the best site for a new cemetery needed to deal with a borough-wide shortage of burial space, council chiefs have insisted.

Officers and members of the Labour administration defended plans for the cemetery in Sloemans Farm, Whitewebbs Road – a 23-hectare site that will provide space for 38,000 single graves.

Cabinet members agreed the scheme on 13th October. But members of the Conservative group subsequently ‘called in’ the decision to the overview and scrutiny committee, raising concerns over the Crews Hill site’s suitability, including a lack of transport links.

Following a debate on Wednesday, the scrutiny committee voted to confirm the cabinet decision, meaning the scheme can go ahead if it is granted planning permission. 

Conservative leader Joanne Laban told the scrutiny meeting she thought the decision to use the Sloemans Farm site was “more to do with income than [burial] provision”. The site could generate £1.4million for the council, according to the cabinet report.

She pointed out Sloemans Farm was ranked third by the council on a list of suitable sites for a new cemetery and said the civic centre should have considered locations outside the borough.

The Tory leader also raised concerns over transport. She said getting to the cemetery would involve a “long walk” down Whitewebbs Lane, which does not have enough street lighting, and the council would have to spend “millions” adding pavements to the road.

Responding to the comments, council leader Nesil Caliskan said assessments had shown there was a “real need” for burial space in Enfield, and some groups, including the Muslim community, had said it was difficult to find burial space.

She accepted Sloemans Farm had been rated third by the council but pointed out the other two locations were being used for agriculture, so on balance it was “the appropriate site”.

Cllr Caliskan agreed with the transport concerns and said these would be addressed through the planning process. She said the council had asked Transport for London to provide a bus stop nearby, which the civic centre would consider financing.

The council leader also said that using Sloemans Farm as a cemetery would “negate considerably” the possibility that part of Firs Farm Recreation Ground, in Winchmore Hill, would be used as a crematorium. Land earmarked for recreational use at the site was identified as suitable for a crematorium in the council’s draft Local Plan, sparking a backlash from residents.

But Conservative committee member James Hockney pointed out that burial use and a crematorium are not the same, and said he could not understand why they had been conflated.

Cllr Caliskan responded that they are both classed as “after life provision”, and claimed a cemetery at Sloemans Farm “negates the need for other after life provision”.

Labour’s Birsen Demirel argued in favour of providing a cemetery in the borough rather than elsewhere. She said: “If we can provide in the borough […] why should we consider burying our loved ones far away from where we live?”

In response to transport concerns, Derek Levy, of opposition group Community First, suggested using income from the cemetery to fund a shuttle bus service from Enfield Town to the site.

After the debate, Conservative committee members Peter Fallart and Cllr Hockney voted to send the decision back to cabinet for further consideration. The remaining four Labour and Community First committee members voted to confirm the original cabinet decision.