Private cemetery may be the solution when space runs out
An Alsager undertaker has warned there will be “uproar” when the town runs out of burial space.
Andrew Edwards, who runs Joseph Edwards and Sons, on Crewe Road, believes the only solution could be if someone developed a private cemetery in the town.
Concerns about a shortage of burial space, when there is no room left at the graveyard at Christ Church, have been growing for years, especially since Cheshire East Council announced in 2018 that the only alternative once it was full could be locations in Congleton and Crewe.
At a meeting of the authority's Cabinet earlier this month, Alsager Lib Dem councillor June Buckley urged the council to rethink its proposal because the policy introduced by the previous Conservative administration was contrary to the current administration's policy of improving the environment, as families would need to travel further to visit the graves of loved ones.
However, Mr Edwards has told the Chronicle that there had been “no interest whatsoever” from Cheshire East in future cemetery provision in Alsager since an attempt to acquire more land from Alsager School, next to Christ Church, failed.
He said efforts to find more land had been going on for around 25 years.
“We got together with the former Congleton Borough Council years ago and then Cheshire East Council,” he explained.
“The old borough council had earmarked land on Cedar Avenue next to the allotments, but there was a change of view and the plan fell through.”
He pointed out there was a similar situation in nearby communities.
Mr Edwards said the graveyard at All Saints’ Church, Odd Rode, which covers Rode Heath and Scholar Green, only had space for burials at existing graves while there was little space left at All Saints’ Church, Church Lawton, and St Bertoline's Church at Barthomley.
He added: “We've worked with Christ Church to look at expansion. We came up with a plan that we took to the school, involving its land from the boundary of the existing graveyard next to Church Road, up to Lodge Road.”
He said the school would not be losing playing field land, as there was now the sports pitches at the new sports hub on Dunnocksfold Road and Hassall Road.
Mr Edwards and representatives of Alsager Town Council met Alsager School headteacher Richard Middlebrook to discuss this but Mr Edwards said the school did not want to lose any land, which the undertaker said he understood.
The extension he had suggested “would solve all the problems”, by providing up to 25 years of burial space, Mr Edwards said.
He warned: “When the churchyard does shut, there will be uproar. There will be no more burials when it's full. Families are going to be upset when they have to go and visit cemeteries in Macclesfield, Congleton or Crewe. For elderly people in particular it will be a nightmare.
“The problem has been bubbling for years, it is a facility we all need.”
He said while cremations were becoming more popular, finding new burial space in cities and large towns could be a problem but it shouldn't be in a semi-rural area like Alsager.
“Until someone comes forward with plans for a private cemetery we have to look to Cheshire East and there has been no interest whatsoever after the plans to extend on to school land next to Christ Church hit the buffers. The council will not build a cemetery in Alsager.”
The last extension at Christ Church, onto school land, was in 1978.
Mr Edwards said the only hope would be for a private cemetery, saying: “If there is a need, these things do come to fruition.”
Christ Church vicar the Rev Daran Ward said: “We have space left for a few more years. When a graveyard is close to closing, you start to use the space left along the footpaths. When there's no land to extend into, it's down to the local council.
“But I understand why people are concerned. It's important and people like to plan ahead. Hopefully something will get done. There's a lot of house building work going on in Alsager.”
Mr Middlebrook confirmed there had been “intermittent” meetings about the churchyard issue and said he appreciated the position the church was in, but had nothing further to add.
Coun Jill Rhodes, Cheshire East Cabinet's member responsible for public health and corporate services, agreed to provide a written response to Coun Buckley's concerns.