HAILSHAM: Church defends plan for memorial garden

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AN ANONYMOUS campaign has been launched against plans to create a new memorial garden at St Peter and St Paul’s Church in Hellingly.

Bereaved families in Hellingly have been waiting for up to three years for the chance to lay the ashes of their loved ones to rest in the churchyard, where the current area used for burying ashes is full.

In response to suggestions from parishioners, the church has asked an architect to draw up plans for a new memorial garden within the church grounds.

The new burial area will include a full communal garden with its own boundaries and a focal point together with a place to sit.

Once the Diocese of Chichester has approved the final plan, a month-long public consultation will take place.

But the plans have already met with opposition from some members of the community, and an anonymous campaign has targeted local neighbours of the church.

Roger Paine, a resident of Church Path in Hellingly, who is against the plans but not part of the anonymous campaign, said he was surprised he had only recently heard about the plans.

“I would have thought that there should have been consultation about this when the drawings were first made,” he said.

“Anyone familiar with plans for new schemes which have a direct bearing on the local community, and the environment, should know that consultation from the start, and possible compromise, is essential.

“To be considering establishing a garden of remembrance in this historic and listed churchyard, when there is a much respected and well used remembrance garden in Hellingly Cemetery, less than half a mile away, seems a peculiar use of church funds in these difficult financial times.

“It also appears, from the drawings that I’ve seen, that it would need foundations to be dug in the churchyard and this would, I am sure, disturb centuries old graves.

“I don’t think archaeologists would be too happy about this,” he added.

Reverend Charlie Hill, from St Peter and St Paul’s Church, said the memorial garden was a priority for the church and the bereaved families who were waiting to make use of the garden. He urged residents to ignore the anonymous campaign which he said has misrepresented the plans.

“The conservation of this historic churchyard has been an explicit priority,” he said.

“We began this process in a totally open way, with various people suggesting sites for the Memorial Garden, each of which was considered.

“However I am aware that those making suggestions did not have the constraints and opportunities of the new guidelines uppermost in their minds.

“We also invited anyone interested to look at the suggested site with the churchwardens and myself, and we have discussed what is happening with anyone who has approached us over the past 18 months,” he added.