Newtownabbey councillors have been urged to oppose plans for a crematorium in the borough on the grounds that cremation is “essentially a pagan practice.”
Planning Service this week granted outline approval for the £5m project on council-owned land opposite Ballyearl Arts and Leisure Centre. But local residents opposed to the development say they will continue to fight the plan.
While most of the objections relate to concerns about the potential impact on public health, the local environment and property prices, one campaigner has appealed to councillors to scrap the scheme for religious reasons.
In an email to the borough’s elected representatives, the Lakeview resident said he was making the call for them to oppose the crematorium plan “on the grounds of Christian conviction.”
It read: “Cremation essentially is a pagan practice used primarily in Eastern nations which have no knowledge of the Christian Gospel. Despite the political correctness of 2015 we need a return to our roots. In Genesis chapter 15 we have direct reference to burial. God makes a promise to Abraham: ‘Thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace, and thou shalt be buried in a good old age.’ Burial clearly was practiced throughout Holy Scripture and there are many examples.
“Contrawise, God commanded His people to utterly destroy, by burning, everything that pertained to idolatrous worship. The burning of idols, images and that which pertained to witchcraft always indicated God’s displeasure.”
The email goes on to highlight concerns about the possible impact a crematorium development could have on the local road network and house prices in the area.
Speaking to the Times, the resident, who didn’t want to be named, described himself as “a concerned Christian.”
“I am coming at this from two angles. I don’t want a crematorium on my doorstep for a number of environmental reasons. But I am also opposed to it as a Christian and I feel that some councillors are opposed to it too on those grounds if they’re telling the truth. What we need is for them to stand up and tell the truth and make their objections known,” he said.
The man, a member of the UK Independence Party, went on to voice concerns that the council still hasn’t found a suitable site for a new cemetery within the borough - an issue which been passed to the new Antrim and Newtownabbey District Council.
“I feel very strongly that the council should be focussing its efforts on finding space for a new cemetery and not on plans for a crematorium,” he added.
Responding to the points raised in the resident’s correspondence, UUP Councillor John Scott said: “He is coming at it from a religious viewpoint, but there is no way that Planning Service can deal with an objection to the application based on this man’s theological beliefs, and neither can we in council. Planners can only deal with an objection based on planning issues.”
Cllr Scott stressed that “technology has moved on since Roselawn was built in the early 1960s.”
“This will be a state-of-the-art facility and will have a minimal impact on the environment. It will be set well back from the road and it won’t have a big chimney like Roselawn. From the plans we’ve seen, it won’t even be visible from the Doagh Road when all the planting is completed.
“I’ve also heard some people saying there’s going to be a graveyard at the site as well, but that’s definitely not the case. The ground isn’t suitable for burials,” he said.
Although it could be built on council land, the crematorium would be constructed and run by a private company as part of a public-private partnership.
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