Calls for rethink on removing '˜200-yard' crematorium limit

Funeral experts have criticised Scottish Government plans to remove the '200-yard rule' which could pave the way for crematoriums sited on main roads, next door to people's homes or in town centres.

Minister for Public Health Maureen Watt wrote back to the committee and refused to put the minimum distance requirement into the crematorium legislation. Picture: Contribution

Industry lobbyists argued the limit, which dictates the position of the services to maintain “tranquillity for the bereaved”, should be reinstated in new legislation aimed at updating the sector.

The Burial and Cremation (Scotland) Bill, introduced last year, sets out to overhaul legislation that is more than a century old and considered “increasingly unfit for purpose”. One of the main previsions of the original 1902 Cremation Act stated a crematorium must have written approval of property owners within 200 yards. The government insisted planning system controls were sufficient and the 200-yard rule was not necessary. MSPs on the Local Government and Regeneration Committee, in their report earlier this month, said: “The arguments presented about maintaining tranquillity for the bereaved and also the impact on everyday enjoyment of dwellings when a crematorium is sited close to housing.”

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They also noted the “overwhelming majority of the evidence we received asked for the ‘200-yard rule’ to be retained and strengthened”.

The Burial and Cremation Review Group recommended the provision be put back into the new bill and concerns about its withdrawal were submitted by the councils of South Ayrshire, Fife, Inverclyde, Falkirk and Edinburgh Crematorium Limited, amongst others. Minister for Public Health Maureen Watt wrote back to the committee and refused to put the minimum distance requirement into the legislation or commit to including it in planning guidance.

In 2014, the rule was nearly invoked in a dispute over a new crematorium in the Borders when a house within the 200-yard limit objected to the £2 million development. But the objection was withdrawn last year, allowing the project at the converted B-listed church in Houndwood, Berwickshire, to go ahead.

Rick Powell, of the Federation of Burial and Cremation Authorities, said: “We have been telling the Scottish Government for many months that it is vital to maintain the 200-yard rule to preserve the dignity of funerals.

“The Scottish Government’s own Burial and Cremation Review Group agrees with us. The general public agree with us. So does the committee examining the legislation.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Our view, backed by stakeholders, is that existing controls provided by the Scottish planning system, combined with strict monitoring by the Scottish Environmental Planning Agency, are sufficient to address all relevant issues relating to crematoriums.”