Dear Mr Michael Moulding
Asda Supermarket development
Swinton Shopping Centre
Further to our telephone conversation of 13th January 2012, I have since been discussing the matter further with my client and with Asda Stores Limited and I thought you maybe interested to hear of our intentions in connection with the proposed development in as far as this affects the unitarian graveyard area.
Since releasing our proposals, we have never made any secret of the fact that the proposed development site includes the location of the former Unitarian Free Church and indeed this is referenced in the planning applications documents. The church was constructed in the late 19th century and the graveyard was in use until 1962. The chapel itself remained in use until its demolition in 1984 following the storm damage.
It is understood that all gravestones and funerary monuments were removed at the time of demolition and there is now very little trace that the church ever existed or that this is a burial ground.
For the past quarter of a century, evidence suggests that this remaining patch of grass within a car park area has been used mainly for locals to exercise their dogs and there is certainly no sign that the burial ground has been treated in a respectful way.
Proposals and Design Evolution
The aim of the proposed development is to reverse the decline of Swinton Shopping Centre that has been ongoing for a number of years by introducing new retail space and a new focal point for the centre, including a public square and also to create a number of local jobs both at the proposed store and within the Asda supply chain for the community.
Numerous different site design layouts and options have been considered as part of the design evolution process, including attempts to avoid any disturbance of the graveyard area.
Unfortunately, however, the site is simply too constrained to enable the design to avoid this. We have been seeking to mitigate impact upon residents on Wellington Rd and Swinton Hall Rd, to create a public square for the shopping centre to separate goods deliveries and customer vehicles for health and safety reasons, to minimise demolition of existing retail smaller units and residential properties, to maintain service access for existing units and also to maximise car parking during the construction process and in the long term in order to minimise inconvenience to local shopping centre users and residents.
Taking into account all these factors has led to the current lay out, which we consider to be the optimum design.
It does, however, include building over the burial ground area. This process will be managed in a professional and respectful by specialists and a great deal of planning and preparation is being undertaken to ensure this is dealt with properly, following all requirements of The Disused Burial Grounds (Amendment) Act 1981.
This work will include full screening of the burial ground area and exhumation of the remains and their reinterment in another local cemetery.
The exhumation work will be debated in accordance with directions issued by the Ministry of Justice and all remains will be individually placed, along with any remaining associated personal items and coffin furniture into newly excavated graves at the alternate cemetery.
The remains will thus be relocated to a final resting place within an existing cemetery environment.
As part of the development, we also propose to provide a memorial plaque to commemorate the former unitarian church location and burial ground.
In conclusion, our intentions as part of the development are to remove the remains within the burial ground from their existing location, beneath a patch of grass in the middle of a car park used for local dog exercise, to take them to a final place of rest in an established cemetery and also to provide a memorial plaque of the former unitarian church, where there is currently no indication at the site that this ever existed.
I hope this helps to alleviate your concerns but, please do get in touch if you need anything further or wish to discuss in greater detail.
Layne Mercer Bsc MRICS