A “difficulty” in finding burial spaces within Mid and East Antrim was highlighted during a recent meeting of Council's Planning Committee.
Cllr Billy Henry raised the issue during discussions around plans for the creation of a new public park in Ahoghill.
The plans for the proposed park, adjacent to Ahoghill Community Centre at Cardonaghy Road, were recommended for approval by the Planning Department at the committee meeting in The Braid on Thursday of last week.
Cllr Henry told the meeting that for some time within Mid and East Antrim there has been a “difficulty in finding burial spaces for our residents who have passed on”.
Cllr Henry pointed out that the site of the proposed park was very close to the cemetery in Ahoghill.
He continued: “While the cemetery in Ahoghill is not filling up rapidly, like many others are, I have no doubt that in a number of years we are going to run out of spaces.
“Is this going to impact on that cemetery in anyway. In the next 15 to 20 years is it going to have an impact at that stage?
“I know in Ballymena as in other places we are running out of burial spaces so is it possible that there could be people from this area moving into Ahoghill for burial?
“I would just like to know if there is going to be an impact on that particular cemetery.”
Senior Planning Officer, Kyle Patterson, said the provision of burial ground was “an important issue for the residents and the members”.
However, he stated: “It is not a material planning consideration when considering this proposal. It is not something we could add any weight too or explore the detail of when considering the provision of a park.”
The planning application, submitted by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, relates to the creation of a public park, including open space, woodland, natural play area, wildlife pond and paths.
Mr Patterson said that one objection had been received from a nearby resident raising concern that their privacy would be lost when the new park is operational.
In response the Senior Planning Officer said: “Whilst yes at certain times the presence of people might be noticed by the resident nearby it won't be to an extent that they can't peacefully enjoy their home as they do at the present .”
He continued: “The application site is situated immediately east of the Ahoghill Community Centre.
“It is not felt the development of this area of land will have an adverse affect on the character of the area.
“The site layout has been designed to promote a user friendly and accessible environment for all members of the community. Dfi Roads have examined the layout and are content in terms of access and parking.
“The proposed development represents a facility for outdoor recreation in the countryside. This proposal also represents an investment in the local community of Ahoghill and the wider area and it is also felt to be a benefit in terms of nature conservation given the overgrown areas that can provide habitats.”
Cllr Stephen Nicholl suggested that council liaise closely with the residents to “ensure the loss of amenity is minimised”.
In response Mr Patterson said: “The residents did receive notification and one of them did get in touch. Their concerns are certainly valid, there is no doubt about that, it was just felt the loss of amenity would not be to such an extent.
“The person will be notified of the committee's decision and in the future when it comes to development maybe there is a way council could keep in touch with the objector just to alleviate any concerns they might have.”
Council's Head of Parks and Open Spaces Stephen Daye, said there had already been a “comprehensive engagement exercise”.
He added: “We are working with the local community group and certainly I take on board the request to engage with the objector which will be part of a wider consultation process that will take place over a number of years as and when we implement this proposal if successful.”
Chairman of the Planning Committee, Cllr Paul Reid, suggested that Mr Daye speak to Cllr Billy Henry outside of the committee in relation to the issue he had raised about burial spaces within Mid and East Antrim.
Cllr Reid added that the proposed park was “good news for Mid and East Antrim and for our citizens”.
Cllr Beth Adger proposed that the committee accept the recommendation to approve the planning application which was seconded by Alderman Tommy Nicholl and unanimously agreed.