Borders crematorium blocked by 112-year-old law

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Houndwood ChurchImage source, Walter Baxter
Image caption,
The church was empty for some time before developers took it over

Plans to open a £2m crematorium in the Borders have been put on hold after a nearby objector threatened to invoke a 112-year-old law.

Dr Fraser Quin's house lies within 200 yards of the chimney stack of the Houndwood Church site.

The 1902 Cremation Act states that a crematorium must have written approval of property owners within that range.

Project director Mark Lamb said he was "very disappointed" and was seeking government help to tackle the issue.

The crematorium received planning permission from Scottish Borders Council in 2009 and would be the second such facility in the region.

Mr Lamb said that more than £2m had been spent since approval on refurbishing the church which had previously been on the buildings at risk register for some time.

"We have tastefully restored the church to make sure the community of Houndwood and nearby Grantshouse could use the church for Sunday services and we actually held a funeral last year for a member of the community," he said.

He said they received calls "on a weekly basis" asking when the facility would open in order for families to avoid travelling to sites in Newcastle, Edinburgh or Melrose.

Mr Lamb said that at the time they sought planning permission they were led to believe the 200-yard rule would not be applicable as there was the opportunity to object during the planning process.

"The 1902 Cremation Act needs to be completely overhauled by the government as all crematoriums in the UK are strictly governed by Defra and Sepa to make sure that we all comply," he said.

"With over £300,000 spent on abatement equipment there is more chance of a 50cc moped polluting the atmosphere.

"I believe the project is unique in the UK with it being a fully functional church/crematorium and this would have put the Borders on the map for the right reason."

However, Mr Quin said he was within his rights to block the development.

'Quite candid'

"I admit being a bit stubborn over this but the bottom line is I don't want to live next to a crematorium and the act states that they must have the written consent of property owners within 200 yards and I am," he said.

"I was quite candid with them and said buy my house but they said no.

"If it opened there would be traffic issues and smoke blowing into my property if the wind blows the wrong way."

He said he could have saved them a lot of money on building work if they had approached him at the start when he would have told them he would not give them written consent.

"If a cremation takes place there I will be straight onto the police and the procurator fiscal," he said.

A spokesman for Scottish Borders Council said: "The operators have the necessary consents from the council and it is now a commercial decision for them as to whether or when they proceed with the crematorium.

"It is for the operators alone to address any private issues that exist."

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