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Decision expected on proposed Harold Wood Muslim cemetery plan

PUBLISHED: 08:56 11 January 2017 | UPDATED: 10:56 11 January 2017

A man pays his respects at a grave in a Muslim section of a cemetery. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

A man pays his respects at a grave in a Muslim section of a cemetery. Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

PA Archive/Press Association Images

A decision by the Planning Inspectorate on whether Muslim cemetery owners can convert land in the borough to open a new site is expected later this month.

Gardens of Peace which already owns two sites in Redbridge - one in Elmbridge Road, Hainault and another at Five Oaks Lane, Chigwell - hope to create a new cemetery at Oak Farm, Maylands Fields, Harold Wood.

A public inquiry into the controversial plans opened in July and a decision is expected by the planning inspectorate by Monday, January 23.

Speaking at the inquiry, Havering Council barrister, Isabella Tafur said: “The appeal site is an agricultural field. If it is allowed it will be in use seven days per week, with five burials per day and hundreds of visitors.”

She added that the “special circumstances” that would justify such a development on green belt land had not been established.

The proposals have been met with fierce objection from members of the community.

A Recorder poll showed, 100 per cent of people who voted thought planning permission should not be granted.

Despite its two sites, the organisation fears it will run out of burial space in three to five years.

If the plans are agreed the burial area will provide up to 10,000 burial spaces.

Niall Roberts, a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute, who spoke on the final day of the inquiry, accused Havering Council of having a “reluctance” to recognise the needs of the Muslim community.

This was refuted by council planning officer Tom McCarthy who told the inquiry 50 graves had been reserved at Romford Cemetery for Muslim residents.

But Muslims need to be buried as soon as possible after death, in virgin ground, prayer and ablution facilities and facing Mecca.

Representatives of Garden of Peace say they have already buried 135 Havering Muslim residents which has exceeded that the number of spaces reserved.

The organisation is the only charity in London to meet Muslim needs without compromise.

Mr Roberts initially said the proposals met green belt policy and enhanced the countryside characteristics of the site.

Under under cross examination, he admitted if planning permission was granted, the development would take up more space that the current site does and be more visible from residents homes.


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