Undertaking alternative ventures requires a slightly different approach to navigating the planning system. This was found out by CLA members Tim Daw, from Cannings Cross Farm in Wiltshire, and Ed Barnston, from the Barnston Estate in Cheshire, when embarking on their burials diversifications.
Tim’s work experience at Stonehenge provided him with an understanding of how human remains were treated then and historically. The idea of developing a Long Barrow was based on Neolithic barrows where cremated remains could be placed meaningfully within a monumental columbarium in a natural setting. It also fulfils a local need in providing an alternative method of storing remains.
The Long Barrow consists of a large grass-covered mound with chambers of dry-stone walling and roofs which have individual niches that people could buy to use to place urns. Planning-wise, the greatest obstacle was that no such development had previously been undertaken, so Tim took advice from a variety of sources and looked for parallels in other businesses until he was satisfied with his approach.
A planning consultant drew up a detailed plan which was submitted to the Parish Council in garnering local support, with English Heritage raising concerns about the authenticity of the structure and around parking. Importantly, the submission argued the case that it was a structure and not a building, as the latter would have required additional aspects to be incorporated, such as a fire escape.
“We now have data on the traffic that a barrow creates as well how the barrow fits into the landscape and provides an ecological haven. We can show how a barrow fulfils a need and provides a sustainable low footprint solution to the placing of cremated remains, which gives great solace and comfort to many. We are happy to share that with anyone who is thinking of building something similar,” Tim says.
There are currently 270 natural burial grounds in the UK, and Ed, a Nuffield Scholar, is aiming for Barnston Estate to become the first estate in Cheshire to open its own natural burial ground, with work due to start over the coming months and an expected opening in Easter 2021.
Monument Meadow Natural Burial Ground is a 5-acre site which will replace the burial ground at St Chad’s in Farndon village and will also be made available for residents of surrounding villages.
The Estate’s aim will be for the environment to be kept as natural as possible, with a wildflower meadow and ornamental trees which also provide a safe haven for birds and wildlife. With its timber-framed pavilion, circular layout and views stretching across the Clywdian Range, it has been designed to be a peaceful and beautiful place to visit.
Ed’s planning application took 9 months to be approved, and despite public support, delays arose from the Environment Agency’s strict process of conducting numerous digs and laboratory tests to consider ground and water conditions. These proved to be a frustrating and costly experience.
Ed says: “Like all of our planning applications, open and regular discussions both with the Parish Council and with local people in the village hall, was crucial. This meant from very early on there was full transparency which established trust and resulted in full support from all who attended which confirmed our intentions to submit a full planning application.”