Agenda item

Cemeteries Investment Update


During the discussion of this item, Julian Briant, member of the SoMC, left proceedings at 18:16 and the meeting became inquorate, but proceeded on an informal basis. 


Dan Thomas, Programme Manager for Capital Programmes, noted the report and provided the following responses to questions:

·           The Letts and Thomas memorials reconstructions were complete and had received significant scrub clearance. 

·           The lessons learnt would be applied to future monument restoration in the Cemetery and the Council now had a model for future work on a further 16 identified heritage-at-risk monuments. 

·           Lessons learnt mainly centred on processes and permission, including preparation in receiving assurance from stakeholders and that intervention was not standard due to the differing conditions of monuments and the deceased’s remains.  There was a need for an executive voice, covering the numerous parties, to allow swift decisions under a chain of command.

·           The quality of monument restoration was subjective as they were not restored to original conditions, but had been assessed positively.

·           It was acknowledged that the Council had been concentrating on the NHLF Bid, but the operational update detailed the ongoing and wider cemetery management.

·           The initial review into costed Catacombs interventions (including design options and cost implications) were not complete, but would be reported to the SoMC in May 2019 and comprised both access works and safety works via meanwhile investment.

·           Funding was needed to investigate design proposals and cost for the Catacombs to be a sustainable asset, prior to bidding the NHLF.  In addition, a consultation on potential future uses was needed.

·           It was noted that past schemes to restore the Catacombs required a structure over the central part so that the catafalque could rise into an enclosed space and would likely need delivery via partnership scheme.  In addition, the Catacombs was a listed structure, and the unused portions were a potential asset to the Cemetery and could be used to generate revenue.

·           The future vision of the Catacombs would determine the duration of current scaffolding.

·           The Catacombs had suffered from damp after the Chapel over the central portion was demolished and had damaged the protection from water ingress, leading to deterioration of coffin timber and potential health hazards from exposed contents.  There was also a columned façade along the Catacombs’ length, however it was not possible to confirm the existence of other lost structures.

·           It was confirmed that the damp readings had improved after the erection of the scaffolding.

·           An initial Catacombs feasibility study, funded by the Council, would give rise to options, and from that the Council would bid to the NHLF.

·           Diocesan authority was needed to confirm the potential use of unused space in the catacombs, such as further internment, which could be used to generate income.  It was noted in discussion that use of mausolea for internment was increasing, as demonstrated by Highgate Cemetery and Kensal Green cemeteries.

·           Planning permission for railings atop the wall adjacent to the Library was nearly complete and the Conservation team were content with the design.  They still needed to confirm their satisfaction with value for money, but the railings would be installed once this was achieved.

·           Planning permission was tied up with the transport planner’s assessment of the impact of visitors to the Cemetery, but the only condition placed upon proposals was on travel.

·           Councillor Fred Cowell noted that major water authority works would soon be occurring in West Norwood and would likely affect the day-to-day workings of the Cemetery through partial closures of Norwood Road.


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