Newry could be in the frame for crematorium after its council chairperson raised concerns over the final expansion of the city’s cemetery.
The Newry, Mourne and Down District Council (NMDDC) owned Monks Hill Cemetery with 2,421 burial plots is currently being expanded by 600 plots in its Phase 3 programme.
The graveyard first opened 45 years ago and will reach full capacity of over 3,000 plots in the new scheme, with the gates closing on the site unless the local authority buys more lands.
Newry Sinn Fein chairperson, Valerie Harte said: “While we welcome the news that Phase 3 of works to expand ‘Monks Hill’ cemetery are under-way, the reports that it may be filled by the end of the decade are concerning.
“In the past, Sinn Féin had proposed that a crematorium facility be set up in the district, but we unfortunately did not receive the support of other parties at the time.
“We will be urging the council to review their strategy for cemeteries to look at how we can handle this issue in a way that is sensitive to families and fair to ratepayers across the district as a whole.”
A council report has shown that at the current rate of burials, the full capacity of Monks Hill will be met in the next six years.
This will leave the local authority in a position of needing to buy more land close to the site to keep Monks Hill open or to shut the cemetery down on future burials.
A NMDDC spokesperson said: “Monks Hill Phase 3 has started this month.
“Excavating and removal of old tree stumps and reshaping the site’s slope as well as the establishment of new access roads and primary pathways.
“In response to the pressing need for burial space, Monks Hill Phase 3 is being executed in two distinct stages.
“Stage 1 is set to conclude by the end of November, providing capacity for an additional 65 spaces.”
The spokesperson added: “The land upon which the Monk’s Hill application for 600 new plots was based, is in council ownership.
“The council does not own any further land adjacent to this site.
“If the council sought to extend the site further it must procure additional land and obtain relevant statutory consents.
“Within each burial plot it is possible to have three individual burials, in cases where the burial is of ashes then the capacity in each burial plot can be increased.
“Phase 3 of this project, which will take place over the next number of months.
“Without further extension of the site the final capacity of the site will be 3,021 burial plots.”