RESIDENTS have called for a rethink of proposals to transform chapel and crematorium facilities at a cemetery that opened in the early 1960s, saying the scheme could impact on the dignity of dead people.

Residents of the Hummersknott area of Darlington said the borough council’s plans to change the crematorium and build a contemporary chapel on nearby agricultural land should be sent back to the drawing board.

The council says the changes would increase the chapel’s capacity from 65 to 120 mourners, and see benefits of a 66-space car park, a hearse drop-off area and floral tribute areas, a garden of remembrance and additional burial plots.

The proposals, to be considered by the authority’s planning committee next week, would also see a new road would be built to the proposed chapel to form a link for the chapel service yard for transfer vehicles to move between the chapel and crematorium for cremations.

In documents submitted for the application, a council spokesman said the proposed chapel had to be separate from the existing crematorium due to the development restrictions, such as graves, and regulatory restrictions on the crematorium dictated it could not be relocated.

An officer’s report to the planning committee states local residents had lodged objections to the scheme over “compassion for the deceased being moved around the cemetery due to the split site arrangement”.

One objector stated: “I strongly object to this on the grounds that this is completely undignified for both the deceased and the friends and family.

“The idea of the deceased having to travel to another building after loved ones have said goodbye and the casket disappears behind the curtain is both sad and treats the dead like a commodity.”

Calling for the local authority to drop the proposals and find an alternative site in Darlington borough for the cemetery, crematorium and chapel, another objector stated: “There is no dignity in moving a body across a site in view of onlookers when the body has already been committed.”

Despite the objections, officers have recommended the proposals be approved, saying the range of public benefits arising from the development were considered sufficient to offset the harm it would cause.