Public inquiry into South Staffordshire's controversial crematorium plans launches
CONTROVERSIAL plans to build two crematoriums on the outskirts of Wolverhampton have come under fire at a public inquiry.
Plans for the sites in Essington and Wergs have been in the pipeline for years but a string of legal challenges have forced proposals to be put on hold.
Now developers of the two separate schemes are hoping a planning inspector will bring an end to the long-running saga and allow building work to start.
South Staffordshire Council previously refused planning permission for both sites but has now backed Dignity UK's proposals to build a crematorium off the A41 Holyhead Road in Wergs.
Mr Ian Ponter, representing the council at the inquiry, said: "The existing crematorium in Bushbury is unable to cope with the level of demand placed upon it, leading to unacceptable qualitative consequences - long waiting times, families being diverted to crematoriums further afield.
"We request that the appeal for a new crematorium at Wergs is allowed and the crematorium at Essington is dismissed."
An eight-day public inquiry at the council's Codsall officers will determine if either of the planning proposals should be given the go-ahead.
It comes after former Communities Secretary Sajid Javid rubber-stamped Westerleigh Group's plans for a crematorium off Essington's Broad Lane in 2017.
This was despite the plans being refused by the council two years earlier and a planning inspector upholding the authority's decision.
Council planning officers also rejected Dignity UK's proposals but the company's appeal led to the quashing of all decisions made by Mr Javid and the public inquiry re-opened.
Mr Peter Goatley, representing Westerleigh Group, told the inquiry the Essington site was the ‘most appropriate’ for a new crematorium.
Plans for a large waiting room, viewing area and 95 car spaces would accommodate Sikh and Hindu families whose traditions include viewing the body during cremation services, he said on Wednesday.
He added: "The Secretary of State found the Essington site to be preferable. There is nothing to alter this finding.
“Essington offers high quality standards and will be able to operate at a high capacity, all from a more accessible location.
“Jobs will be provided in both the construction phase of the development and through the operational phase of the facility. Socially, the facility would provide a necessary public service and relieving the pressure elsewhere."
Mr Peter Village QC, representing Dignity UK, said there had been 'significant over trading' at Bushbury and Gornal Wood crematoriums.
Building in Wergs would 'relive' pressure on both of these facilities but plans for Essington would not support increased service in Gornal Wood.
The hearing continues.
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