COUNCILLORS this week gave their unanimous backing to the provision of a new cemetery near Kelso racecourse.
“This site is as good as it gets,” said local councillor Tom Weatherston of the 1.7 hectares (four acres) of farmland just off Ednam Road near Ferneyhill Tollhouse.
Monday’s decision of the planning committee to grant Scottish Borders Council (SBC) planning consent to change the use of the land, currently owned by farmer George Miller, ends a five-year search for burial facilities in the town.
As reported last week, the shortage of burial space in Kelso is at the critical stage with lairs at Rosebank expected to be exhausted later this year.
“Given the constraints on council spending, we could not get a better site,” said Mr Weatherston. “We have looked at several possibilities, but there is nowhere else within walking distance of the town.”
Mr Weatherson said he sympathised with the Kelso Amenity Society which had cast aspersions on the design of a pavilion which will provide toilet facilities, a waiting area and a place of quiet contemplation for mourners.
“The pavilion is soulless and looks done on the cheap,” the society claimed.
Mr Weatherson commented: “I agree the structure lacks grandeur, but given the money we have, I think it is acceptable. We have looked at several possibilities in recent years and this site is as good as it gets.”
He said he had reservations about the first phase of the project which would provide 988 burial lairs, along with 20 off-road parking spaces, at the part of the site closest to the town.
“I fear that mourners will park on the main [B6461] Ednam road, which is very busy and dangerous.”
He was told by roads official Derek Inglis that this was a genuine concern and the committee agreed to ask the council to consider bringing forward its plans for an extra 29 parking places – earmarked for later phases on a site capable of accommodating 2,260 lairs.
“A single funeral is likely to take up more than 49 spaces, so I do not understand the rationale for delaying the parking provision,” said Mr Inglis.
Provision of a pedestrian crossing over the main road was a condition of consent.
The meeting heard that the cemetery site, separated from the back straight of the racecourse by the road, had been amended so that it did not encroach on land to the west which is thought to be the site of the medieval St Leonard’s Hospital.
However, SBC must keep a “watching brief” during development of the burial ground to ensure that any artefacts from the hospital, built in the 12th century, would be logged and notified,