New Larne cemetery planning application deferred pending councillors’ site visit

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Planning Committee has decided to defer a decision on the development of a new £2.1m cemetery in Larne.

The planning application was deferred until next month”s meeting of the committee pending a site visit.

The new 15-acre site consisting of two fields, opposite 382 Old Glenarm Road, will be able to facilitate almost 4,000 plots. It is located on the right side of the road towards Ballygally.

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It is anticipated that there will be 180 burials annually with a maximum of three per day with a “gap of 90 minutes between funerals”.

Greenland Cemetery, Larne

The new cemetery will include a memorial garden, 140 parking spaces, public toilets, a staff building with access to the site by a new right-hand turning lane at Old Glenarm Road. A bus stop is  included in plans.

The council’s principal planning officer Gary McGuinness told the committee at a meeting, on Thursday morning, that the town’s Greenland Cemetery in Craigyhiill will reach capacity in nine years and McGarel Cemetery at Old Glenarm Road is already at capacity.

He stated that the council is looking at “a long term strategy” adding that a “detailed examination of an extension to Greenland Cemetery was deemed unacceptable”.

He went on to say that the new cemetery, which would accommodate 3,900 plots, will be “interspersed” with pedestrian paths and roadways and would provide capacity for “at least 25 years”.

He added that the proposal will include the “retention of most boundary trees and hedges”.

Mr McGuinness reported five objections to the application highlighting concerns over potential traffic, disturbance, impact on wildlife and loss of privacy.

The officer said that these were addressed through consultation responses.

A letter of support has been received from Larne Ministers’ Club, an inter-church forum. Uptake is anticipated at an average of 50 plots annually.

There have been no objections by DfI Roads Service to the proposed road access and car parking arrangements. DAERA says that the proposal presents “no unacceptable risk” to groundwater ot the water course.

A report to the Planning Committee said: “The nature of cemetery development and digging of graves clearly involves the disturbance of ground and use of chemicals in the embalming process prior to burials means there can be potential for adverse impact in the form of groundwater contamination.

“Advice has been taken from DAERA and from Shared Environment Services who are satisfied that the proposal is not likely to have any significant adverse effect on the natural environment.”

Surrounding fields are currently used for agriculture pasture.

The report states that the planning department does not consider the likely impact on residential amenity to be so significant as to merit refusal of permission.

“However, it is acknowledged that there will inevitably be an increase in traffic  and possible noise and disturbance.”

In the mid-90s, the council purchased a field from a parish adjacent to the existing Greenland Cemetery in Craigyhill but this “proved to be an unsuitable site”.

Potential sites at Kilwaughter, Ballyboley Road, Millbrook, Drumalis and Lealies Drive in Antiville were investigated but have been ruled out.

Speaking on behalf of a local resident, planning consultant Gemma Jobling said that this objector “fully understands the need for additional burial plots”.

However, she said that that he believes that it would be “unsuitable” for this area due to lack of accessibility to a site in the countryside with one in five households in Larne not having access to a private car.

She pointed out that there are no footpaths and no bus route has been agreed.

She also questioned the sustainability of the location and indicated that the full transport assessment has not been submitted.

She suggested that traffic on the road would increase by ten per cent and she called for a “more robust” traffic assessment to be submitted.

Responding to concerns, a representative for the council said that the proposal “seeks to secure” a bus service to the site with a “dedicated bus stop incorporated into the proposal”.

“This is a longterm strategy project. It is anticipated that footpath provision will eventually connect the cemetery to the rest of Larne as development progresses,” he noted.

He went on to say that the council has spent ten years considering other sites including one adjoining Greenland Cemetery which were found “not to be feasible” and no landowners were “forthcoming”.

He acknowledged that it would be “preferable” to have a cemetery site “within the settlement limit” but noted that it is “on a par with what has happened in other council areas”.

Committee Chair Ballymena DUP Alderman Audrey Wales suggested deferring the application for a site visit.

Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Robert Logan commented: “I have some concern we have not had a site visit. I am conscious of the fact that other members would not be familiar with the site. I propose we defer until next month to have a site visit.”

Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Councillor Keith Turner said: “I do think a site visit would be most in order for us to gauge the total impact of what is proposed.”

It was agreed that the application will be deferred until next month.

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter

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