A councillor said “everyone should be cremated and thrown in the sea for all I care” during a debate on a plan to extend a cemetery because of Covid-19 deaths.
Andrew Hinchliff made the astonishing comments at a meeting of Conwy County Council’s planning committee on Wednesday, where councillors were assessing a bid to extend Llanrhos cemetery in Llandudno by 1,600 burial plots.
The proposal is contentious and prompted a number of objections from local residents because it would be sited on “green wedge” land formerly owned by Mostyn Estates.
It is also in a “designated special landscape area”.
During the debate, Cllr Hinchliff (Bryn ward) wondered whether a lawned cemetery, rather than having headstones standing upright, might be a better idea.
He then added: “I’m not a big fan of cemeteries. I think everyone should be cremated and thrown in the sea for all I care. If we are going to have it as part of a parkland and we happen to own it, we want to do the very least to disturb it.”
Several councillors shifted uncomfortably, until planning committee chairman Cllr Alan Hunter intervened. He said: “I think we have to respect people’s wishes about how they deal with their loved ones when they depart this world.”
Councillors passed the plans in line with officer recommendations by six votes to one, with five abstentions.
A heartfelt appeal to planners not to use the land was made by John Lawson-Reay, chair of Llandudno and Colwyn Bay History Society.
Cllr Trystan Lewis (Pensarn ward) said he remembered the fields from his childhood and wondered whether land to the north of the existing cemetery could be used rather than “using somewhere as special as this”.
But, it was established Conwy county council owned the land on which the extension would be sited, adjacent to the existing cemetery.
The 0.87 hectare parcel of land adjacent to the cemetery is currently used for grazing horses and is separated from the existing burial ground by a hedge, fence and some small trees.
There will be gravel paths and drainage as part of the proposal and the new site, if permitted, would be accessible on foot from the existing cemetery.
The site lies within a “designated special landscape, green wedge and historic landscape” area according to a report going to committee members on Wednesday – and there are a number of trees protected by a Tree Preservation Order.
The area is also allocated for safeguarding of “hard rock reserves, and sand and gravel”.
A report in March this year revealed four of the county’s 11 cemeteries were already up to capacity and can’t take any more burials – and that increased deaths from Covid had played a part.It said, with a burial rate of 20 per cent of deaths and the population rising in the county, the number of burials will continue to steadily rise.
Population projections show the number of over 65s in the county is currently around 27 per cent but is expected to rise to around 31 per cent by 2028.
The study also said, although there is currently space at Llangwstenin and Bron y Nant cemeteries, diverting burials from Llanrhos would soon take up any spare capacity and more space would need to be found.
The full application sought permission to construct the extension, footpaths and landscaping for the site.
There will be 639 double-depth burial plots, 180 single-depth burial plots and 749 cremation plots, giving a total of 1,568 spaces.