Funeral firm’s future secure

By Mark Elson   |   Senior Reporter   |
Wednesday 30th January 2019 11:12 am
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A FUNERAL directors’ has withdrawn its bid to open a mortuary and a chapel of rest in the grounds of a rural house after highways chiefs raised objections to the scheme.

And Martin Watts, owner of Ian Watts and Son Ltd has now confirmed that they can continue to operate from their current Bream High Street premises for several years if they wish to, despite their planning agent initially telling Forest planners they had been “given notice.”

Mr Watts says it is not the case that they have to leave their Bream building, but the success and expansion of the business, with January their “busiest month” ever, means they need to find extra premises or to relocate in the next few years.

“I am currently looking at various premises as my business has grown so much over the years since my late father established the company in 1968. However, there is no urgency for me to relocate from my Bream Funeral Home,” he said.

“We can’t thank local people enough for choosing us to assist them when they need our help and the number of families coming to us every year has grown so much that we now need additional premises in the Forest of Dean and in Chepstow.

“With the ever increasing amount of funeral plans that are purchased from us each week, I am needing to consider seriously large expansion, whilst keeping a personal involvement with every single family.

“We have just expanded our Caldicot Funeral Home too with additional office space on the first floor of the property on the corner of the Avenue.

“Since opening in Caldicot five years ago, we have met so many lovely people who have appreciated our personal friendly service with our approach to transparency about costs and our free grant assistance scheme.

“January was the busiest month we have ever experienced and we thank everyone who has placed their trust in us, from the bottom of our hearts, not forgetting our staff who

are invaluable.”

Neighbours of The Magpies at Neds Top in Oldcroft, including some young families, had claimed the firm’s scheme for a mortuary and chapel of rest there would damage the character, beauty and safety of the hamlet and “distress young children.”.

Lydney and West Dean councils also objected to having hearses and other business-generated traffic using the single track access lane used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

Gloucestershire highways department initially indicated it had no problems with the proposal in a report dated January 22, but just 24 hours later highways chiefs changed their tune and and said they would be recommending refusal.

A Highways technician emailed Forest planners: “I had the opportunity to review this application with my manager and I will need to rectify my previous response. Please could my previous recommendation be revoked? This application will be subject to a refusal.”

The about-turn came after Gloucestershire, Forest and Lydney town councillor Alan Preest asked for the application to be referred to the Forest’s planning committee on highway grounds.

The firm’s planning agent John Powell had told Forest planners: “Various alternative sites have been looked at, but none were found to be suitable. Some 30 people are employed locally who will be affected if suitable premises cannot be found.”

He submitted a speed survey showing “a very low volume of traffic” and said that when a hearse left the cottage site, the passenger would stand on the opposite side of the lane to ensure a safe exit.

But after learning of highways’ change of tack last week, he told planners: “What a pity county highways changed their recommendation to a refusal. In light of this my client has instructed me to withdraw the application.”

Lydney and West Dean councils also raised fears of environmental damage from the disposal of hazardous and biological waste.

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