Page last updated at 10:58 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009 11:58 UK

Controversy over crematorium plan

generic crematorium
There is currently no crematorium in the region

Plans for the first crematorium to be built in the Scottish Borders have been lodged.

The Bristol-based Westerleigh Group hopes to create the crematorium next to Wairds Cemetery on the lower slopes of the Eildon Hills, just outside Melrose.

The nearest crematorium to the area is currently 30 miles away in Edinburgh.

But countryside campaigners have criticised the proposed location, which falls within a designated Natural Scenic Area.

The planning application, which has been lodged with Scottish Borders Council, would see the crematorium built with a floral tribute canopy, access road and car parking.

Council leader David Parker said a crematorium was badly needed for the area and he hoped it would get the green light from planners.

Certainly the Borders needs a crematorium but we are equally certain that is the wrong place for it
Charles Humphries
Save Scott's Countryside

Mr Parker added: "There will be objections to this but we do need a crematorium in the Scottish Borders and this is the preferred site.

"I hope people won't rush to reject this - it's the first time we've had a private sector company willing to go this far.

"Some people feel we shouldn't build a crematorium at the bottom of the Eildons but if we have a building that is both suitable and sensitive to the site I don't see a problem.

"It could be a long time before we get another opportunity like this."

Adrian Britton, commercial director of Westerleigh Group, said: "We looked at great length in the 1990s for a suitable site that was convenient for both the Scottish Borders and Northumberland.

"Although there was plenty of goodwill it was impossible to find a site that suited everyone.

"We looked at a large number of sites recently and the site at Melrose came up as one of the preferred sites by Scottish Borders Council and it stood out a mile from the others. It is central for the whole area and will meet the needs of the Scottish Borders."

Completion date

But the Save Scott's Countryside campaign group, which was formed to preserve the natural landscape around the author Sir Walter Scott's home at Abbotsford, criticised the plans.

Spokesman Charles Humphries said: "Certainly the Borders needs a crematorium but we are equally certain that is the wrong place for it in terms of landscape.

"We know for several years this company has been talking to the council about a crematorium and there has been a lot of work carried out culminating in the planning application.

"We are very worried that it is a done deal."

It is expected the Melrose facility will initially cater for about 600 funerals each year - eventually reaching 900 after a decade.

If the application is approved work is likely to start next March, with a completion date of November 2010.



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