A large audience packed the Pelham Hall bar area to hear County Councillor Giles Howard, accompanied by two colleagues, explain that cemetery capacity in NE Monmouthshire was very limited and that new sites were needed in the very near future. Sites within Monmouth had been investigated and rejected, either because of flood plain issues or because the substrate was not suitable.
In addition, Environment Agency constraints, such as that the site must be at least 250m from potable ground, meant that many of the possible 24 sites outside Monmouth had to be rejected. However, three sites in Penallt looked more promising, these being as shown below:
- the remote and elevated position of the suggested site would mean that the elderly bereaved, often without transport of their own, would have great difficulty in accessing the cemetery, especially with our infrequent bus service.
the creation of a cemetery would necessarily change the landscape and hence the local heritage, something not at all in keeping with that the site is inside the Wye Valley AONB.
would the soil in the field be deep enough? It was suggested that it couldn't be ploughed in past years.
would the field fail to pass the EA tests anyway, in that there was a borehole nearby?
Alternative suggestions were also made from the floor
- could Rockfield be used instead? Or the open land near the Old Dixton Road? Or part of the Monmouth Show Ground land?
why not increase the number of cremations instead?
could existing cemeteries be re-used, e.g. in Monmouth? Could the Priory graveyard be adopted by MCC?
why not set up a partnership with Herefordshire and/or Gloucestershire and find a site outside Monmouthshire?
The table replied to many of these issues, often with authority when the issues previously had been explored in great depth. They explained that they frequently found themselves "between a rock and a hard place" and that, whatever solution was finally decided on, they would never get 100% acceptance. They appreciated the geographical unsuitability of site 3 and suggested that a possible improvement in the bus service might alleviate the access problem.
Many of the alternative sites suggested had already been explored and rejected on grounds of flood plain, water courses and the fact that they were not for sale. Others had soil which was too shallow. Whilst the 75 year rule allowed reburials in the same land, there are strong emotional arguments against doing this and a previous meeting in Monmouth was strongly against this solution. On the other hand, if the choice were between an inaccessible Penallt site and a convenient, if sensitive Monmouth site, then opinions might be different.
The effect of a new cemetery in Penallt was also explored. The existing road structure would be sufficient, there would be no chapel and there would be a small car park, for 5 or 6 cars. Only half of the field would be used, the remainder going to meadow.
The meeting broke up after about an hour, with many of the audience feeling that MCC might well remain rock/hard place bound, as it seemed that the field would fail the cemetery criteria anyway. Nevertheless, MCC will need to continue their assessment in order to satisfy themselves directly of this.