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Protest held outside town hall as inquiry opens into controversial Harold Hill cemetery plans

PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 May 2017

Campaigners against a cemetery being built in Harold Hill protesting outside Havering Town Hall

Campaigners against a cemetery being built in Harold Hill protesting outside Havering Town Hall

Archant

Passionate protesters presented a petition of more than 1,000 signatures opposing plans for a controversial cemetery to an inquiry which opened on Tuesday, May 9.

SRR Developments Ltd hopes to create a multi-faith burial ground with ancillary buildings, parking and landscaping next to Maylands Golf Course, Colchester Road, Harold Hill.

But residents said the cemetery would add to the already congested A12 and Brook Street Roundabout, in addition to traffic from a Muslim cemetery opposite the site.

Kenilworth Avenue resident Jan Veness said: “My son lives in Woodstock Avenue, our gardens back onto each other.

“He has to walk through my garden to get my car to take his children to school in Brentwood because of the traffic. He cannot get out of his road.

“We will have hearses slowing down and the traffic is so fast as they are turning left. I don’t know what will happen.

“It will be a nightmare.”

Kathleen Simpson, a Kenilworth Avenue resident of 79 years, added: “I am so disappointed. We are losing our last bit of green belt.”

Opposing the residents’ views, SRR Developments’ barrister Rhodri Price Lewis QC, said the proposals would not harm the countryside or add to congestion.

“Our case is that while the appeal site is within the green belt, the effect of the proposals on its essential characteristics of openness and permanence is very limited,” he said.

“Highways England do not object to this proposal.”

But Havering Council’s barrister Isabella Tafur said the proposals were inappropriate for the green belt, would harm the landscape and the appeal should be dismissed.

David Godwin, captain of the golf course, believes the appeal only went ahead because of interference from Redbridge MPs when the council contested proposals for the Gardens of Peace cemetery on the opposite side of the road.

In letters shown to the Recorder, Mike Gapes, Wes Streeting and Margaret Hodge – when they were MPs for Ilford South, Ilford North and Barkng respectively – wrote to secretary of state Sajid Javid in October last year.

They expressed a need for the cemetery because of a shortage of spaces in London, particularly in Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge and asked Mr Javid to make a swift decision.

Mr Lewis said evidence collated on behalf of the appellants showed that east London needed 85,000 spaces in the next 20 years and was about 50,000 short.

But Ms Tafur added that none of the nine councils in east London had asked Havering to help meet their needs.

Cllr Lawrence Webb (Ukip, Gooshays) said: “The irony is we won’t give up the green belt to people who live here but we will to bury people who don’t.

“It’s nonsense.”

The inquiry is expected to last four days.

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