Should West Grinstead be home to a crematorium?

A sign put on the A272 opposite the Orchard Restaurant near West Grinstead
A sign put on the A272 opposite the Orchard Restaurant near West Grinstead

An ‘extremely strong objection’ to a resubmitted proposal for a crematorium in West Grinstead was put forward by the parish council last Wednesday (July 4).

The application for a crematorium on the A272 was resubmitted to HDC last month after it was refused planning permission in 2011.

Last week’s meeting of the West Grinstead Parish Council (WGPC)gave residents an opportunity to speak with the applicant, Peacebound Ltd.

Around 30 residents attended and were happy to hear the clerk Helen Dayneswood give the council’s verdict.

She said: “We will give a very very extremely strong objection to the application.”

A WGPC spokesperson said: “Our view is that if the district does need a new crematorium – and we are not convinced of this – then the right place would be the edge of a built-up area, with good public transport.

“It should not be in a rural, or essentially rural location, close to houses and the Downslink and in a location where public transport is almost non-existent.”

More than once West Grinstead residents were told to ‘be civil’ as they grasped with open arms an opportunity to voice their opinions.

Patrick and Matthew Gallagher, of the funeral director and crematorium applicant Peacebound Ltd, and architect and surveyor Douglas J P Edwards, were laughed at and taunted as they attempted to explain to residents what the benefits of a new crematorium would be for their village.

An hour and a half of fiery debate between the passionate army of residents and the three crematorium applicants ended on a sombre note when one resident asked to have the final word.

He said: “We have had questions thrown back at us and we have been condescended to. I do not appreciate the way we have been spoken to.”

Mr Edwards explained to residents that much of the countryside would be protected if the proposed site were to go ahead but lost the interest of the group when he said that ‘pitifully few people actually went onto the site’.

To which residents called: “We live there, we know the site!” and ”We don’t want to go following you there.”

Mr Edwards continued: “There are two full-sized football grounds of land before you get to the building, I really can’t understand how anyone can be affected by a building in this location.”

Conversation was guided by residents who vented all of their concerns about the site, including: an increase in traffic on the A272; an eyesore for Downslink users; an increase in pollution; and a lack of need for a crematorium in the area.

At the end of the meeting, when it was made clear to Patrick Gallagher that most residents had not warmed to his point of view, he made one last effort to end on good terms.

“I did not mean to offend anyone. My most sincere apologies I did not mean to do that.”

Peacebound Ltd spokesmen attended the meeting last Wednesday with a clear aim to bring residents on side and show how their development could help protect the countryside which runs alongside the cherished Downslink bridleway.

Patrick Gallagher said: “I have tried to be as open and accessible as possible and I really do want to continue in that vein. I believe it’s a good development for local people.

“I do appreciate it’s a nerve- wracking time to propose development, especially when it’s something like a crematorium which carries so many myths and taboos.”

Mr Gallagher explained that the actual building would only make up a small part of the land, leaving much of it as open space, which would not be the case if the land were used as a housing development.

“This is privately owned land and it is not prime agricultural land so it will never be a country park, but this development would protect wildlife.”

Architect and surveyor Douglas Edwards said ‘peace and tranquility are the key aspects’ of a crematorium application and that ‘this site is absolutely ideal’ in those terms.

Mr Gallagher pointed out that the height of the building would be lower than that of the trees around it, creating a natural screen for users of the Downs Link.

He also said that some bereaved families are currently finding it hard to have a funeral quickly and at a time that suits them at the local crematoriums in Worth and Findon, due to a rising and ‘dramatically ageing’ population.

“I do believe it will be a wonderful legacy to be left by members of West Grinstead and Horsham.”

To this comment the crowd laughed and one resident asked: “Would you like one in your back garden?”