Cemetery extension project in Hadleigh set to go ahead amid continued financial concerns
A major cemetery expansion project in Hadleigh, which has been the subject of much in-fighting within the local council in recent years, is set to finally begin next month.
Hadleigh Town Council announced at a meeting on Thursday that it has signed a agreement with contractors to extend the cemetery by around 3.3 acres, at the tender price of £472,597.96.
The authority stated the works will be paid for with the help of a £500,000 fixed rate loan, approved by the Public Works Loan Board last year, repayable over the course of 25 years, at an interest rate of 2.79 per cent.
The new arrangement comes after the project had to be re-tendered, due to the previous preferred contractor going into insolvency.
Planning permission for the extension, which includes proposals for a green burial area, was granted in 2015, but progress stagnated amid disputes at the town council, with concerns raised over its financial viability.
Last month, a number of councillors wrote an open letter that called for a business plan and a feasibility report, arguing the project threatens to leave no money for other priorities.
But the council claimed the project will not require a council tax subsidy, because of the strength of its general funds, and claimed income from both the existing cemetery and expansion will pay towards the costs.
“It has been said that cemeteries are often given scant attention by planners and other local officials, becoming a concern only when a crisis erupts,” a council statement reads.
“Yet cemeteries, like parks, schools, roads and housing, are integral to the life of a community.
“Moreover, cemeteries can serve as more than just the resting place of the dead, providing the living with areas for contemplation, solace and remembrance.
“It is fortunate, therefore, that there was foresight by Hadleigh Town Council to extend the cemetery, thus ensuring the future of burials within the town for at least 40 years.”
But some opposition members believe the project’s full costs could be as much as £750,000, and they claim the authority has failed to be transparent about key details of the plans, or carry out a comprehensive public consultation.
Cllr Angela Wiltshire said: “The town council-owned changing and club room facilities at the Layham Road Sports Ground should have been completely rebuilt by now, but there’s no money left.
“It’s all going on 40 years of cemetery provision, and the Guildhall charity, which is losing money hand over fist and is heavily subsidised by the town council.
“We are now all standing down and the new council, just as we were four years ago, have already had huge costly decisions handed onto them, without them having a say.
“We have been trying to point this out, offered alternative ideas, and have been labelled disgraceful, appalling and disgusting. We have been silenced, because these matters have been dealt with in confidential meetings.”
But the council insisted it has engaged with the public, saying it has exhibited the plans at annual town meetings and various Neighbourhood Plan events since 2015.