Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 25th October 2017

Last week, members of Crawley Borough Council had the opportunity for the first time to tour ‘Little Trees’, the town’s new cemetery.

Located just south of Broadfield, the new cemetery will have space to provide a final resting place for loved ones for the next 50 years. Its design enables it to accommodate burials from all faiths, in addition to woodland burials, in a well-maintained environment.

The construction of Little Trees follows an increasingly frantic eight year search, as Snell Hatch began to reach maximum occupancy and we faced the threat of being unable to provide somewhere to bury Crawley residents within the borough’s boundaries. On becoming Leader, the case was even made to me that the council had no legal obligation to provide a graveyard, yet it was our obligation to the community to provide a place to bury loved ones nearby and not the law which was always my main concern.

Situating graveyards is difficult. In Crawley, all the land within the town already has a designated residential, economic or leisure use, and every category is in short supply. We couldn’t build near to Gatwick as bodies would have to be disinterred in the event of a new runway and there are existing issues with providing such a noisy resting place. Some of the sites we considered were adjacent to nursing homes which would have been somewhat indelicate and you are restricted to locations with relatively low levels of groundwater.

Nonetheless, following careful negotiation to relocate the Girl Guides to Tilgate Forest, we have found in Little Trees a new cemetery site of which Crawley can be proud. So far, one resident has found a final resting place at the cemetery, long-serving former councillor Keith Blake, a man who dedicated many years to serving the town in a range of roles and who sadly passed away earlier this year. Keith served as Cabinet Member for Environment for much of the eight year search for a new site and it feels appropriate that having passed away he now has the chance to rest in the place he helped to create.

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