Plan on hold for cemetery

2018-11-13 06:00

The Anglican Diocese has no plans to develop at the old cemetery off Klipfontein Road.

In a response to claims from the community that the site was up for development, and amid various concerns over the exhumation of remains on the site (“Fight to protect heritage”, People’s Post, 6 November), the Diocese has stated that despite a proposal for development, presented to the community several years ago, the plans have been put on hold.

In a statement issued to People’s Post, the Diocese says: “The story of the exhumation of the remains of those buried in the old cemetery off Klipfontein Road, and their reinterment last year in a columbarium at St Mark’s Anglican Church in Athlone, is not a new one. It begins in 2012, when the church publicly advertised its intentions and began its consultations with the Athlone community, and the matter has been the subject of a number of reports in the local press since.”

According to the Diocese, the cemetery was “very rarely, if ever, visited” and the local church received “constant complaints from homeowners in Garlandale about the dumping of waste, vagrancy and crime”.

“Even if we had the means to do so, given the desperate need for housing and ministry to people currently living in the greater Cape Town area, it would have been irresponsible to spend money on the cemetery’s upkeep,” the Diocese says.

This gave rise to the proposal for a development on the site and that the remains be exhumed and reburied, and that the land be redeveloped.

“As required by the National Heritage Resources Act, we advertised and held public meetings on its plans. In addition to consulting with local Anglican congregations, we held three public consultation meetings with the Athlone community, in November 2012, February 2013 and June 2013.

“A number of options were put to the community. By the final meeting, those present unanimously chose the option that the remains should be exhumed, cremated, interred and memorialised in a specially built columbarium at St Mark’s Church, Athlone,” the statement reads.

Three options for development were put to the meetings: a service station, low-cost housing or townhouses in keeping with the surrounding housing in Garlandale.

“The community rejected the proposals for a service station and for low-cost housing, and agreed only to townhouses, so the church abandoned the first two options,” the statement reads.

“In the event, the church has thus far been unable to identify an appropriate developer, so there are no current plans for development, and the future of the land is on hold.

“In addition, the church carried out exhaustive research into who was buried in the cemetery in an effort to locate their descendants, and issued a new public appeal in early 2017, asking for relatives whom we had been unable to trace to come forward,” the Diocese claims.

The exhumations were supervised by a qualified archaeologist.

The columbarium was dedicated in December 2017, and the building was permanently sealed.

“In brief, the impression created by your informants that we have failed to consult the community, those living around the cemetery and relatives of the deceased is incorrect. We know of no cemetery which is able to keep records of the current whereabouts of the descendants of those buried there, and we made every possible effort to trace relatives. It is also incorrect to say that the Heritage Resources Authority granted a permit in the face of 400 signatures opposing the process – the online petition to collect signatures began long after its permit had been issued, and some time after exhumations began,” the statement reads.

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