Michelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)
Mid and East Antrim BC confirms interest in Carrickfergus cemetery site
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council could be in line for a bidding war over a proposed site for a new cemetery in Carrickfergus.
It is understood that the local authority may be facing competition from Belfast City Council over acquisition of a new 104-acre site at Trooperslane Road.
At a meeting behind closed doors, Mid and East Antrim councillors expressed concern over the length of time that has passed since they requested the matter to be “progressed”.
It is understood that a limit has since been placed on the amount local authorities in Northern Ireland can pay for land.
Mid and East Antrim councillors were told by the authority’s director of operations Philip Thompson that “substantial survey work” has now been completed at Trooperslane to establish suitability for burials.
He indicated that Belfast City Council is believed to be “in the early stages of identifying” a cemetery site.
Belfast City Council’s burial fees for non-residents are more than treble those for residents.
Mid and East Antrim councillors have agreed to confirm the authority’s interest in the Trooperslane site and its “advanced stage of negotiation”. It was also agreed that the chief executive would seek legal advice around land purchase restrictions.
Previously, members were told by the director of operations that work at the Trooperslane site had “become complicated because of a number of historic monuments within the site and this required input from an archaeological expert”.
It has emerged that 36 acres of the site were found to be “unsuitable for burial” due to the presence of a gas pipeline and “proximity to nearby water courses” which is expected to reduce the purchase price by approximately £0.5m.
Councillors were also informed that the presence of the archaeological monuments, gas pipeline and 20 acre “buffer zone” around the water course would “drastically reduce” the value of the land by as much as £0.5m.
Mr Thompson has also told councillors that 14 acres of land had been tested previously by the legacy Newtownabbey Borough Council, which, he suggested, had been in anticipation of amalgamation with Carrickfergus Borough Council in 2015. No problems were reported at this section.
Meanwhile, Antrim and Newtownabbey officers say they have been in correspondence, with colleagues in Mid and East Antrim Borough Council, Belfast City Council and Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council as these authorities are also seeking sites for cemetery provision and the potential to work in partnership was being explored.
A new £2.7m cemetery is being developed outside Larne at Old Glenarm Road adjacent to Carnfunnock Country Park which could facilitate up to 6,000 plots.
A spokesperson for Belfast City Council said: “We are currently exploring options around future cemetery facilities and members of our Cemetery and Cremation Working Group continue to engage with other local councils to review potential locations across the greater Belfast area.”