Argument over Houndwood Crematorium

Plans to open a crematorium in Berwickshire have been put in doubt by a resident’s threat to invoke a 112-year-old law.

Wednesday, 2nd July 2014, 4:40 pm
Houndwood Church.

Dr Fraser Quin, who has lived in the hamlet of Houndwood for ten years, is prepared to invoke the 1902 Cremation Act, saying that it would be too close to his house.

The Act states that a crematorium cannot operate within 200 yards of a dwelling without the permission of the homeowner or resident.

Satellite imaging shows the chimney is 187 yards from Dr Quin’s house.

He said: “The community of Houndwood, as opposed to that of nearby Grantshouse, had real concerns about the smoke and traffic generated by a crematorium.

“We had no consultation with developers at all until February of this year, when I put my objections to them. Since then, nothing has been said.”

The crematorium’s project director, Mark Lamb, said that there have been no discussions about buying Dr Quin’s house despite reports in various national papers, and that no price had been mentioned.

“The bottom line is that we need the government to step in and assist us, which it has done in the south,” he said.

“We have restored the church that was falling down, to make sure the community could use the church. We actually held a funeral last year.”

He went on to dismiss Dr Quin’s concerns over emissions of smoke as “nonsense”.

“SEPA [the Scottish Environment Protection Agency]run very tight regulations for emissions, and we have spent £350,000 installing abatement equipment at Houndwood,” said Mr Lamb.

He also dismissed the possibility of traffic congestion in the hamlet. “If you look at mortality rates in Berwickshire,” he said, “then we would be handling two services a day, maximum. We have to hope that common sense prevails.”

Roger Arber, Secretary of the Cremation Society of Great Britain, has revealed that the society was aware of the modified church at Houndwood being “within 50 yards of a highway and 100 yards of a dwelling”.

Mr Arber said that the Cremation Society had “pointed that out” and made its concerns known to the developer. He stressed there “would only be in breach of the law if a cremation were carried out”.

Mr Arber, who with the society has been in consultation with both the crematorium and Dr Quin, said there was the possibility of a Bill being put through Parliament to ensure the unit holds services.

The crematorium received planning permission from Scottish Borders Council in 2009.

Mr Lamb said more than £2m has been spent since approval was granted.

An SBC spokesperson said: “The operators have the necessary consents from the council and it is now a decision for them as to whether or when they proceed with the crematorium.

“It is for the operators alone to address any private civil issues that exist.”