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Crematorium plans for Gravesham revised over pipeline blast fears

Revised plans for Gravesham’s first crematorium will go before planners again next week after health and safety concerns were raised – about the site exploding.

Earlier this year the Messenger reported that the building for the Rochester Road site, next to St Mary’s Church, Chalk, would open in early 2015 after being approved by Gravesham council.

However, issuing permission was delayed pending a response from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which offers planning advice for new developments near hazards – such as the two high-pressure gas pipelines that run north-south through the middle of the site.

St Mary the Virgin Church, Chalk
St Mary the Virgin Church, Chalk

A response from the HSE “advised against” granting planning permission on health and safety grounds due to the gas pipelines representing a risk to the public.

The report to councillors states: “In view of this expert advice, the planning permission was not, and has not, been issued by the council.

“However, in recognition of the identified pressing need for this piece of essential local infrastructure and a government requirement for councils to work positively and proactively with applicants, officers engaged with the applicant to consider options that may overcome the health and safety risk associated with the pipelines and, hence, overcome the HSE’s objection.”

The plans received a rejig as to what went where and remain mostly the same as before, albeit with areas moved around.

An artist's impression of the new crematorium
An artist's impression of the new crematorium

The changes will see a small reduction in burial space, although the report notes: “In terms of long-term provision, the applicant explains that these reduced areas will still provide over 20 years provision for traditional burials and over 28 years provision for woodland burials.”

In addition to a crematorium, developers Mercia Crematoria and Co-operative Funeralcare are building two chapels with views of the Thames Estuary, a cemetery for traditional burials of all faiths, a memorial garden for ashes, and a woodland area for natural burials, with graves marked with trees or plaques.

For health and safety reasons, the two chapels will not be allowed to be used at the same time.

The nearest crematorium to Gravesend is 12 miles away at Blue Bell Hill, near Chatham, with another one 17 miles away in Maidstone.

The plans will go before committee at the Civic Centre on Wednesday, September 3, at 7pm and are recommended for approval.

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