PLANS for a change of use at Ipsley Meadow from ‘open grassland’ to a cemetery have been approved by eight votes to one by Redditch Borough Council’s planning committee tonight, Wednesday, October 13.
In doing so members over rode 837 letters of objection and the signatories of two petitions, the impassioned pleas of local residents on the night and the appeals of both Matchborough ward councillors, Juliet Brunner (Ind) and Alex Fogg (Con).
Speakers hit out at the loss of ecology, green open space, the loss of amenity, poor transport links, an increase in traffic and pollution.
However whilst bitterly disappointed at the outcome campaigners drew some comfort from small victories won.
Stephen Williams, who in his speech took just nine minutes to tear into the council’s application, said after the vote: “If we had not kicked off 18 months ago, goodness knows what they would have put forward.
“As it is the change of use is packed with conditions on what they can do with the land.
“Now they know that when they do put forward a planning application for a cemetery it will be under far greater scrutiny.”
He was backed by fellow campaigner Ivan Willcock who in his appeal to councillors had questioned the legality of the council’s plans.
He said: “They have included in the application land which is under a restricted covenant so they are not in a position to make a lawful decision until they have explained what they are going to do about it.”
Approval of the change of use was proposed by Coun Aled Evans (Con, Heeadless Cross & Oakenshaw) who even went so far as to suggest that a change of use would: “Enhance the public’s use of it in that anyone from Redditch does have the right to have their remains scattered there.”
He was seconded by Coun Tom Baker-Price (Con, Headless Cross & Oakenshaw) who said that councillors were restricted by planning regulations on the grounds for refusing an application and many of the objections, for instance on the grounds of ecology, had been met.
Only Coun Andy Fry (Lab, Lodge Park) spoke against. He said: “This is the perfect dilemma for planning – there is nothing wrong with Redditch Borough Council’s application for a cemetery on its own land, nothing wrong with 800 people saying this is wrong.
“This is certainly a beautiful part of Redditch – should we have to lose this open space?
“I do not want to see it lost as primary open space and so I will not support the officers’ recommendation.”