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Future of burials in Watton under threat much to the dismay of some residents

PUBLISHED: 14:16 22 January 2018 | UPDATED: 16:17 22 January 2018

St Mary's Church at Watton. Picture: Ian Burt

St Mary's Church at Watton. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

A town is facing a crisis of where it will bury its parishioners when the current cemetery reaches capacity within the next 10 years.

St Mary's Church at Watton. Picture: Ian BurtSt Mary's Church at Watton. Picture: Ian Burt

In a review commissioned by Watton Town Council last year, it stated the area around the town and surrounding districts had “very restrictive development opportunities” and sites suitable for cemeteries were “extremely restricted” due to ground water levels.

The report also stated the cemetery would be full in seven to 10 years.

In October councillors voted after “much discussion” to not reserve money for future cemetery land and to seek to no longer be a burial authority when the cemetery off Church Road is full.

This has been greeted with much dismay by some residents, including Norman Phillips who said he is “utterly disgusted” with the decision.

Watton mayor Stan Hebborn. Picture: Steve AdamsWatton mayor Stan Hebborn. Picture: Steve Adams

The 77-year-old former councillor said he and his wife wanted to be buried in the town cemetery and said many other residents are concerned.

Mr Phillips said: “We are utterly disgusted. The decision needs to be overturned. I think that the council has a moral responsibility to provide a cemetery for the people of Watton to be buried in.

“I want to be buried in Watton church yard. At the moment due to the actions of Watton Town Council providing that I do not die before it is full, there will be no where for me to be buried.”

The town council said money had been allocated for a new cemetery but it is not enough to purchase land outside of the parish and establish a cemetery.

Gravestones inside Watton Cemetery. Picture: Ian BurtGravestones inside Watton Cemetery. Picture: Ian Burt

Mayor Stan Hebborn said: “The situation is that we are running out of burial space in the current cemetery. We have looked at what land is sustainable to buy but because of the water table anywhere we could buy would not be allowed [by the Environment Agency].

“Unfortunately we have had to make an extremely difficult decision to say that once the cemetery is full it is full.”

Councillor Beryl Bunning said she was “not happy” about the decision and will ask for discussion to be brought back onto the agenda later this year.

She said: “For a town the size of Watton to not be a burial authority I think is totally wrong. I hope we can perhaps overturn the decision.

Gravestones inside Watton Cemetery. Picture: Ian BurtGravestones inside Watton Cemetery. Picture: Ian Burt

“Several towns people have said they think it is totally unacceptable.”

What are your thoughts? Email rebecca.murphy@archant.co.uk

The allotments next to Watton Cemetery. Picture: Ian BurtThe allotments next to Watton Cemetery. Picture: Ian Burt

Further views

Mr Phillips has said other options need to be discussed by the town council to enable a new cemetery to be built in Watton.

He said the land on which the allotments now sit on was designated as an overflow site for the current cemetery.

St Mary's Church at Watton. Picture: Ian BurtSt Mary's Church at Watton. Picture: Ian Burt

In the cemetery review it states under new guidelines the current cemetery would “probably be refused planning” by the Environment Agency.

A council spokesman said at the moment a decision has not be made as to whether that area of land is suitable.

Eirlys Johnson, of Eirlys Johnson Funeral Services, has been a funeral director in Watton for nearly 26 years.

She said: “To an awful lot of people their final resting place and knowing where it will be is important.

“What I am hoping they [the town council] will do is review this and they will change their minds. I really hope that they will.

“The people of Watton really need to have a burial area.”

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