Thousands to be spent on repairs to town cemetery as councils clash over sale plan

The Priory Road cemetery in Huntingdon. Picture: GOOGLE

The Priory Road cemetery in Huntingdon. Picture: GOOGLE - Credit: Archant

A programme of work to repair the boundary wall of an historic cemetery in Huntingdon has won the backing of a former town mayor who has been campaigning for the graveyard to be restored.

But Huntingdon Town Council's plan to fund some of the work from the sale of a little-used mortuary at the Priory Road cemetery has run into a snag after Huntingdonshire District Council insisted that the mortuary was a listed building as part of the wider site, making it difficult to develop and sell.

Now the town, which wants to redevelop the mortuary for housing, is set to challenge the district's decision.

It has earmarked £50,000 in the current financial year towards a rolling programme of repairs to the wall.

Doug McIlwain, a former mayor of Huntingdon and ex-town councillor, has been campaigning for years for the cemetery to be restored because he believes the site has been neglected over the years - largely because it did not generate income.

He said: "They took money from the families to bury them there and now they have a responsibility to spend some money on it. I think the council has lost sight of this."

Mr McIlwain said he was pleased that the town council was going to do some work on the substantial brick wall which surrounds the cemetery and he also welcomed the potential sale of the mortuary site which he said was little used and could be redeveloped without any significant loss to the integrity of the cemetery.

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He said he had been calling for the site to be refurbished for at least seven years, adding: "I have got six generations of my family in the cemetery".

Mr McIlwain also wants to see the Victorian chapel, which stands in the cemetery, brought back to its former glory.

The chapel is still available for use although the cemetery is now full. Dating back to the 1850s, the cemetery was set out by the architect Robert Hutchinson.

Work is expected to start first on repairing the highest risk area of the wall, which leans out on to the public footpath at the Primrose Lane corner and construction is expected to begin this month (September).

The town council said the repairs to the wall had been a "long-awaited" project and that although they hoped to start shortly, they needed a planning amendment to be agreed by the district council.

It said the rolling programme was in place to carry out the repairs over a 10-year period, depending on funding.

The town has appointed agents to evaluate the full potential of the mortuary site, especially if it could be used for redevelopment with space for one house.

But the district council has highlighted concerns over the impact such a building would have on the conservation area and has since indicated that the mortuary was a listed building which the town clerk and the agents are now challenging.

Councillors heard that if the mortuary was listed as part of the chapel it would make it "very difficult" to develop and sell.