An eco-cemetery has been stopped in its tracks by North East Fife planning councillors due to a “substandard” access road.
St Monans-based A. Stephen, Joiners and Funeral Undertakers, had lodged a planning application with Fife Council to change the use of agricultural land and a walled garden at Elie Estate.
The concept of an eco-cemetery is to provide an alternative to a ‘conventional’ burial ground, with the aim of reducing the environmental impact of burials and providing a peaceful, natural area for them to take place. The cemetery would have provided for natural burials of coffins and ashes
A small area of the site has historically been used for burials, and the entire site was consecrated when Elie House served as the Convent of St Mary Reparatrice, from the 1950s to 1980s.
It was estimated that between six and ten burials would have occurred per year. The council didn’t object to the plans in principle.
“A small enterprise of this nature would be considered compatible with the historic use of the site,” a planning report said. “The nature of the proposed eco-cemetery use would lend itself to a natural/countryside location and there is demand for this type of service.”
However, the plan was ultimately struck down over concerns for driver and pedestrian safety.
Elie House and the proposed eco-cemetery is located on a narrow private access road. It is 6.5 metres at its widest point and less than 4m at its narrowest.
Transportation was consulted about the application and raised serious concerns that could not be resolved.
“The proposal would increase the number of vehile trips over a private access that has substandard passing places, has no passing places over the stretch of the access at the north end of the area and which already serves more than 30 houses and businesses,” the consultation said.
“As such, any increase over this substandard access would be to the detriment of road and pedestrian safety.”
Further, the transport team said that there was limited visibility at the courtyard junction and an increase in vehicle movements “would be detrimental to the drivers of all vehicles and pedestrians.”
Councillor David MacDiarmid (Howe of Fife and Tay Coast, SNP) advocated for the development, but was told there was no way to allow it to go ahead.
Convener Jonny Tepp (Tay Bridgehead, Lib-Dem) said: “We all understand that the cemetery might be something we would like, but there’s no good legal mechanism to make it happen.”
Legal consultants for the council explained that fixing the access issue was a “technical impossibility.”
“There is no reasonable planning mechanism which could be implemented to restrict the number of vehicles entering/leaving the site via the existing substandard access,” a committee report stated.
It was ultimately refused planning permission, but the proposals garnered a strong reaction from community members during the process.
The council received 28 letters of objection and 35 letters of support. St Monan’s and Abercrombie Community Council also backed the proposals.