As we reported last weekend, there was to be a consultation event regarding the possibility of building a crematorium on the former Mabledon Hospital site in Darenth. As suggested in the previous link from Darenth Parish Council, Dignity has recently been appointed by Dartford Borough Council to develop an area of land at the aforementioned site to provide a crematorium and cemetery parkland. Some of the background to this decision can be seen in the agenda and minutes of DBC’s Cabinet meeting earlier this year in March.
Subsequent to the announcement of the meeting by Darenth PC, PlanIt Planning and Development submitted an application, on behalf of Dignity Funerals PLC, of a request for a Screening opinion for a single storey building with an gross external area of 574.4sqm, which will include a chapel, crematorium and administrative space, a visitor car park (approximately 5100 sqm in area), upgrading of the existing internal road and the existing vehicular access off Green Street, an area for burial plots, a garden of remembrance and an area managed for nature conservation interest – Mabledon Hospital Site, Gore Road, Darenth. The full details of this document can be seen on DBC’s website under the reference 14/01568/SCREEN.
I went along to today’s consultation to see for myself what was being proposed and had a good chat with some of Dignity’s representatives. The full details of the presentation can be viewed at planit-planningdevelopment.co.uk, this includes a feedback form. Some of the specific points we discussed were:-
- There does appear to be a need for an additional crematorium in this area. The nearest other sites are at Eltham and Bluebell Hill (although there is the possibility of another site at Chalk, to the east of Gravesend).
- Eltham crematorium is one of the busiest in the country holding around 4000 cremations a year. To put this in context, the proposed crematorium will initially only hold around 1000 cremations a year. It is envisaged that services will only be hourly (having been to services at Eltham, I have had the impression that it is almost ‘a conveyor belt’). This means there will be, at the maximum, 8 or 9 services a day (it will only operate from 9am to 5pm, Monday-Friday).
- There will also be around 50 burials a year and as the burial site will be around 40 acres in size, at that rate, it will be sustainable for around 100 years. There will also be a separate garden for the interment of ashes.
- There will be the capacity for just over 100 guests in the chapel.
- It is estimated that with, on average about 30 cars attending each service, it would mean between 150-200 extra cars a day in the area – this was not seen as a major issue but they are carrying out traffic assessments.
- The Dignity representatives went to great lengths to stress how important ecology issues were and these would not only be maintained but enhanced.
- The site is presently owned by DBC and this would not change. The intention would be for Dignity to cover all building costs and then pay an agreed annual rent to DBC.
We discussed timescales and it was envisaged that formal planning permission would be submitted early in the New Year. This was expected to take between six and eight months to be agreed, so if approved, work could be started around August 2015 with a view to opening late in 2016 or early in 2017.
There may well be some objections to the proposal but my impression was that this will be a much needed facility and from the discussions I had, this seems a very good proposal and a very responsible company.