Concern over rising costs for Biggleswade cemetery improvements

Project funding options and borrowing for Stratton Way Cemetery to be considered shortly
Stratton Way cemeteryStratton Way cemetery
Stratton Way cemetery

A 25 per cent rise in costs within a few months to bolster the image of a Biggleswade cemetery has been labelled worrying by the town’s deputy mayor.

A site visit to Stratton Way Cemetery enabled the town council to appreciate the scale of the five-stage project, from scope and design to delivery in 2025/26.

“This scheme will be scrutinised to gauge support alongside others in May, before making an application for public works loan board funding,” said the report.

BTC’s public realm manager Harry Henderson explained: “We’ve met on site with the landscape designer to commission the cemetery drawings.

“We’ve been identifying the types of trees, monuments and benches we want to incorporate.”

Town councillor Jo Jones asked whether drainage has been included. Mr Henderson replied: “Drainage will be explored as part of the project.”

Mayor Mark Foster said: “We’re aiming to improve the aesthetic, so it feels more of an attractive area.

“Currently this seems like a field with graves in it. Some options will be beneficial for the council’s finances as certain things can be sold. It’s not just about spending.

“Not all of the funding should come from public works loan. When there’s £35,000 for a contractor’s fees, we need some understanding of what that resembles, given a budget of £22,000 for two roundabouts.”

Town councillor Duncan Strachan, who chairs BTC’s finance and general purposes committee, warned: “I’m reluctant to enter into any long-term loan commitment for items which may not last the period of the financing.

“It’s important we’ve an idea of the ongoing running costs of replacement, as it might be on an annual basis with plants. We want to produce something which is welcoming for families attending there at a sad time and in remembrance.

“We don’t want to spend a sum of money now and find we’ve created something which becomes a burden for the town.”

Deputy mayor Mark Knight said: “I agree with caution around use of the public works loan board and note interest rates are quite high.

“When we were planning the budget, we earmarked about £100,000 for this initiative. So it’s worrying it’s gone up by 25 per cent to £125,000 in just a few months.

“There’s value in some of the memorial elements. It’s probably worth thinking about a business plan. If we’re aware of that element, it would be easier to understand the investment because we could see the return.”

Town clerk Peter Tarrant added: “This is a position in time document, not the end of the journey.

“There’s a balance between expenditure focused on transforming the site and other consequences. As an overall package, we need to understand what are our priorities and reach a decision on the level of borrowing for 2025/26.”

Councillors agreed a recommendation for officers to produce an indicative business case around how planned assets could be used and seek alternative funding options.

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