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Search for a burials site is ‘a priority’

A cemetery between Oxford and the village of Horspath is still ‘a possibility’, according to a senior city councillor leading the search for a new site.

Oxford City Council has been looking for a suitable location since 2009 after it was found that the city’s cemeteries have only enough space left until 2019.

Two of the city’s four council-owned cemeteries in Dunstan Road, Old Headington, and in Church Cowley Road are already full, and the remaining two in Banbury Road and North Hinksey Lane, Botley, are set to be full within three years.

Councillor Mark Lygo,  the city council’s executive board member for events, told the Guardian: “There has been an active search for sites across Oxford’s boundaries but we’re yet to find the right site.”

He confirmed that green space at Five Mile Drive recreation ground, off Banbury Road, and Hill View Farm in Old Marston, which had been looked at as possibilities, had now been ruled out.

However, when questioned about three sites off Oxford Road between Oxford and Horspath, Cllr Lygo said: “It still remains a possibility.

“We are not quite at panic stations just yet but the search for a new site is very much a council priority and we’re exploring the option of Horspath as we are most likely to be filled up for sites by 2019.” A site previously earmarked near Horspath was for a 20-acre cemetery between Horspath Athletic Ground and Shotover Hill.

Martin Harris, a parish councillor for Horspath, said that three sites between the village and Oxford on the Oxford Road had been looked at previously by the city council last year and in 2014.

He said: “From our understanding, it was thought that those sites were unsuitable for a cemetery. We haven’t heard anything about it since.

“I understand that the city council needs to provide burial ground and if we get a concrete planning application about it, we’ll see if we will be on board with it.” Headington and Rose Hill cemeteries have been closed to burials since 2003 and 1995 respectively.

Anne Purse, an Oxfordshire county councillor for Horspath, said: “A village has its own burial issues and cannot take on a city’s in addition.

“The cemetery would also have to be built on such a vulnerable area of the Oxford Green Belt and with only a few fields separating the village from Oxford, I think it would have such a big impact.

“Horspath is a completely distinctive village from the city and I am sure residents would like to keep it that way.”

Under Government legislation, cemeteries can be built on Green Belt land ‘as long as it preserves the openness of the land and does not conflict with the purposes of the land’.

Elizabeth Gillespie, South Oxfordshire District councillor for Horspath, said: “I think residents would be very upset about the idea of having some of their fields used for a graveyard.”

Cllr Gillespie said South Oxfordshire District Council had never thought of looking at the land as a possible cemetery site, despite it being within its own boundaries.

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