NEWTOWNABBEY Borough Council has written to the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice to facilitate dialogue between them on proposals for a new cemetery within the Valley Park.
Speaking at Monday night’s full council meeting, Alderman John Blair who is strongly opposed to the plans, asked how “a neighbour of the site” - by which he meant the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice, had reacted to the news.
If plans for a new cemetery do go ahead at Valley Park, the Hospice could end up overlooking the new graveyard site.
Council Chief Executive Jacqui Dixon said a preliminary meeting had taken place between the council and the Hospice and following that, a letter was sent from the council to the Hospice.
“The council have written to the Hospice to allow them the opportunity to fully engage with the process,” said Mrs Dixon.
Alderman Blair wanted to know how “receptive” the Hospice had been to the proposals at that preliminary meeting, but Mrs Dixon refrained from being drawn into discussions on the matter and stated she was reluctant to say much more until a written response had been received from the Hospice.
Councillor Robert Hill claimed that there were “any number of stories and rumours flying around” about what was going to happen at the Valley Park and he thought it would be sensible at this stage for the council to produce a press release which would give an accurate picture of what actually would be happening there.
Councillor John Scott agreed and said that he had been at a meeting with local residents earlier on Monday and they too had expressed fears about the future of the site, concerns about losing an outdoor amenity and anxiety over the impact a graveyard would have on those living in the area.
Alderman Paul Girvan echoed their views and said he had heard talk of the proposed graveyard taking in the entire area “from the O’Neill Road right through to Valley Leisure Centre”.
He said rumours like this were unhelpful because at the present stage, the council were still not aware if the plans were even feasible.
“We are not at the stage to even identify if the ground at the Valley Park is suitable for a graveyard and if it will be feasible to go ahead with it. If it is found to be possible, then it will be one-third of the park that will be used for this purpose and we will be looking at things like screening as well,” he said.
Councillor Mark Cosgrove claimed a large amount of the Valley Park was actually not being used at the present time because it was overgrown and not readily accessible. He said that if the cemetery proposal did go ahead, local people would still have the same nett amount of public space to use themselves and to walk their dogs in, as moves would be made to clear the areas not in use now.
He said the site was being used to “meet a sustainable need” and the amount of useable land for those visiting the Valley Park for recreational purposes, would remain the same as at present.