Plea to stop bulldozers in crematorium ashes row

Perth crematorium and its garden of remembrance, now the subject of a clash between councils. Picture: Walter Neilson
Perth crematorium and its garden of remembrance, now the subject of a clash between councils. Picture: Walter Neilson
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BULLDOZING land near a crematorium to make way for a new road could breach the human rights of relatives of the dead whose ashes have been scattered there, a council has warned.

Two councils, Perth and Kinross and tiny Luncarty, Redgorton and Moneydie Community Council, are at odds over the planned new road, part of a “masterplan” for the western edge of Perth.

Removal of the ashes is a betrayal of trust

Alex Cook, community council

The new highway would be driven through a winding tree-lined lane which takes funeral cars up to Perth Crematorium, beside which, in a so-called Bluebell Garden, the ashes loved ones have been scattered for decades.

Perth and Kinross Council has already granted itself planning permission for the new road, but thousands of people have objected to the scheme, claiming that it will destroy hallowed ground.

Now Luncarty, Redgorton and Moneydie Community Council has revealed that it may mount a legal challenge, which could boil down to whether one can “own” ashes once they have been scattered.

Alex Cook, of the community council, said yesterday: “We believe that since the issue of possession of human remains is inconclusive and not beyond reasonable doubt, it is subject to challenge under human rights legislation and the European Court of Human Rights.”

The community council has prepared its case using the results of Edinburgh City Council’s investigation into practices at Mortonhall Crematorium during the baby ashes scandal.

Mr Cook said: “The report places much emphasis on the profound need of the bereaved to have a focal point for their grief.

“Members of the community have expressed the view that removal of the ashes is a betrayal of trust and a promise made by Perth and Kinross Council to provide a ‘timeless tribute’, as stated in the official crematorium leaflet.”

The community council has secured backing from planning charity Planning Aid for Scotland (PAS).

In a report to Perth and Kinross Council in February, its own executive director (environment) Jim Valentine stated: “With regard to ashes that may be scattered in the affected area, the council has obtained legal advice and officers conclude that the scheme is not incompatible with the right to property under the European Convention of Human Rights.

“It is not clear that ashes that have been scattered are capable of being considered as 
possessions.

“Nevertheless, were it to be established in law that rights of ownership might attach to ashes that have been scattered, as opposed to stored, the council has given careful consideration to minimising the impact of the scheme on any ashes that may be located on the land that is to be appropriated, including ensuring that the ashes will remain within the grounds of the 
crematorium.”

It is thought this would involved retaining topsoil removed from the development area.

Perth and Kinross Council is also facing a separate legal challenge from St Johnstone FC, which complains that the road will destroy a £100,000 training pitch.

A Perth and Kinross Council spokeswoman said yesterday: “The council doesn’t want to add to the statement made previously by Jim Valentine.”