Controversial plans by the Issa brothers to set up a cemetery the size of 68 football pitches in Lancashire have been withdrawn.
The planning application was due to be decided by Hyndburn Council’s planning committee next Wednesday afternoon.
However, that may not be the end of the plans.
Proposals for the 85-acre multi-faith cemetery have been submitted by the Issa Foundation and backed by the billionaire brothers – who built their empire out of a Bury gas station.
Consultants working for the Issa brothers emailed the council on January 12 asking to “withdraw the candidacy with immediate effect”, LancsLive Reports.
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A director of Atticus Planning said in the email that it “will take stock of the various comments from those consulted to date and arrange a project team meeting next week to review a revised application. “.
They added that they would be in touch with the council on their progress “and when we are likely to resubmit”.
The plans were stamped as withdrawn yesterday (January 13) by Hyndburn Council.
Hyndburn MP Sara Britcliffe said: “I hope this means the concerns of the community have been heard and are being taken seriously, but I will continue to monitor this and keep residents informed.”
Billionaire business brothers Issas had tendered for the change of use of a 34 hectare agricultural site south of Blackburn Road, West End, Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, to a cemetery with associated pavilion, internal roads, car park and associated infrastructure .
The design and access statement submitted stated that the site should be designed to accommodate at least 100 years of burials at projected rates of 175 to 350 per year.
A change.org petition launched when the plans were first reported last October now has almost 4,000 signatures, although another in favor has garnered well over 1,000 supporters.
Before the application was withdrawn, Oswaldtwistle County Councilor Peter Britcliffe said: ‘There are currently various reports from statutory bodies which do not favor the development of a cemetery and I believe the application should now be withdrawn. Obviously the people of Oswaldtwistle are extremely concerned about this.
“This is the last of the green belt we have between Oswaldtwistle and Blackburn and it’s very important that we retain as much green belt as possible.”
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Documents prepared ahead of next week’s planning meeting state: “The development of an extensive network of roads, paths, car parks and the reclassification of the site will result in a loss of openness of the green belt and damage the landscape character of this region.
“Insufficient information has been submitted by the applicant on a number of areas to demonstrate that the development is acceptable.
“The Environment Agency has opposed the proposed development due to concerns about groundwater pollution and the Highways Authority has raised a number of concerns which require further information for these issues to be properly addressed.
“The claimant has also not undertaken any relevant protected species surveys or demonstrated a net gain in biodiversity.”
In the app’s design and access statement, the Issa Foundation explained the need for the site: “Most Muslim graveyards in the UK are nearly full to capacity and this has been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic. 19, with the Muslim community in particular being affected more than others, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
“In the north and northwest, the situation is no different with many cities that have large Muslim concentrations and are seeing a sharp rise in deaths from Covid-19.”
A heritage report by the council’s chief planning officer, David Morris, found the proposal would result in ‘the loss of all historic characters and features’ of the saddle landscape.
He added that the development is “contrary to heritage and landscape planning policies” and would damage the setting of the listed buildings of Knuzden Hall Farmhouse, Knuzden Hall, Stanhill Hall and Cowhill Fold.
Morris said the case officer and the planning committee will need to consider whether the public benefits of the program outweigh this harm.
He added: “The development of a cemetery of the nature and size proposed would transform the present character of the countryside. The current visual unity of the green belt campaign would be lost and the cemetery would separate the fields of Cow Hill from the surviving fields of Stand Hill.
“The cut and fill of the proposed development would destroy any archaeological or other heritage assets that lie within the site boundary.”
Campaign charity The Campaign to Protect Rural England had asked that the request be refused on the grounds that the opening would be “impaired to a significant degree”.
Lancashire County Council had also submitted a ‘standing objection’ subject to conditions being met – namely not breaching public rights of way.
Environment Agency planning adviser Carole Woosey said: ‘The proposal is planned for over 100 burials per year, which is considered high risk in accordance with the L3 position statement of the Environment Agency’s approach to groundwater protection.
“Such proposals will only be approved by the Environment Agency where a developer can demonstrate, through a detailed risk assessment, that given the specific site setting and proposed engineering methods, pollution of groundwater will be avoided.”