Concerns that Banbridge residents may no longer be able pre-purchase public cemetery plots, due to restructuring under the ABC council merger, have been allayed.
A recommendation to allow advance plot sales in all council cemeteries was passed at full council on November 23, and allows for sales of 10% of available plots in any one year until five years burial space is left, with exceptions being considered on a case by case basis as and when they arise.
Councillor Glenn Barr has welcomed the decision, saying the policy was something that needed to be agreed across the three council legacy areas.
“We needed a policy introduced that would work right across the board and we have tried to find the right balance on this issue”.
A number of concerns were raised surrounding the recommendation and it was passed subject to clarification of these.
Concerned about selling off so many plots in advance, Alderman Burns asked how many in the old part of the cemetery in Banbridge had been purchased but not yet been used.
In response, the Head of Technical Services (Banbridge) Mr Patience, said he did not think it was that many, but agreed to find out.
Further, Alderman Burns raised the point that plots in other areas are often more expensive and was concerned that people could come from outside of the area and purchase plots in ABC Council Cemeteries.
Under policies used in the Banbridge legacy council this may mean that Banbridge could be looking for a new Cemetery when maybe half the plots sold in the old Cemetery had not been used.
Mr Patience however, said plots would only be available for purchase by residents of the area and consideration could be given to the inclusion of a time limit for the use of a plot, such as 50, 75 or 100 years, and if not used after the stated time the plot would revert back to the Council.
It was then questioned whether, from an equality point of view, the Council could prevent people outside the area purchasing plots.
Mr Patience said that this was common practice but would seek clarification.
Alderman Burns then asked who had to live in the area - the person purchasing the plot or the person being buried in the plot, if different.
Mr Patience said that historically in the legacy Councils it was the person who purchased the plot that had to live in the area. There was no restriction as to where the person being buried in the plot lived, but he undertook to seek further clarification regarding this point also.
Previously, Alderman Arnold Hatch, Chair of the Environmental Services Committee, had said he would like to see the Banbridge arrangement available throughout the entire new Borough as there was a feeling that some residents may want to prepare in advance and have their affairs in order.