- Application for a controversial Muslim cemetery submitted for third time
- New plans are for 3,000 graves on a greenbelt site in Solihull
- Application has sparked anger in village of Catherine-de-Barnes
Residents living in a picturesque rural village with a population of just 613 have slammed plans to build a Muslim cemetery on greenbelt land - for over 3,000 people.
The proposed site in leafy Catherine-de-Barnes, near Solihull, West Midlands, will include a total of 3,333 graves for followers of Islam.
This is despite Muslims accounting for fewer than 3 per cent of the population of Solihull and its surrounding areas.
Residents living in a picturesque rural village have hit out at controversial plans to build a Muslim cemetery on rural land
The proposed site of 3,000 graves (edged in blue) and the previous applications (green and red) that have been made for the sites near Solihull, West Midlands
Previous applications to build what would have been Britain's largest Muslim-only cemetery put before Solihull Metropolitan Borough have been unsuccessful.
But Cemetery Development Services Ltd have now submitted scaled down plans with fewer graves, which could be approved next month.
It would mean the cemetery could eventually hold over FIVE times as many people as Catherine-de-Barnes itself.
The graveyard would be able to comply fully with Sharia law which states Muslims are traditionally buried in their own section of land, next to others of the same faith.
Islamic law also stipulates a method of bathing and shrouding the bodies before being buried with their heads facing towards Mecca.
Yesterday villagers criticised the revised plans for the major development - which will also include 95 spaces for visitors - and said it would blight green belt land.
Locals are also objecting the plans for the cemetery based on concerns surrounding the impact it will have on traffic.
Grandfather-of-four Gerry Chauke, 55, said: 'There is ample room for graves to accommodate the local population here.
'I'm a believer that these sort of developments should serve the local community, but we don't have a massively large multicultural population here.
'So plans to have a graveyard exclusively for Muslims just seems a bit absurd to me.'
Leader of Solihull Council, Conservative councillor Bob Sleigh, who represents the Bickenhill ward, said he also agreed the needs of local people could already be met by current plots.
He said: 'This is simply not an appropriate place to site a cemetery.
'Planning permission was refused on substantial grounds last time and I will continue to oppose the scheme on the same grounds again.
'There were a lot of environmental concerns with siting a cemetery on this land. This is just not the right position for this type of scheme.
'There is no need for this extra site in Solihull. We have identified our population need and made provision for that.
'Obviously people are concerned about the scale of the development and its threat to greenbelt land around Catherine-de-Barnes.
'I don't believe the case has been made to overcome the very special measures which apply to greenbelt land.'
Trevor Eames, secretary of Solihull Ratepayers Association, said the application was 'disappointing'.
He added: 'At this stage we see no obvious difference in this application to the earlier plans or for planning to draw a different conclusion.
'The parking for 90 cars and access is much the same as is the impact on the openness of the green belt plus there was concern over pollution of watercourses.'
Conservative councillor Alison Rolf, who also represents Bickenhill, added: 'My main concern is that they are building on the greenbelt land.
'In Solihull we don't have a huge Muslim population
'When the first application was taken down local people were delighted that it had gone away, but it's come back with very little adjustment.
'I understand people's frustrations.'
The cemetery has received backing from the Muslim community in Solihull, who said there was a desperate need for more burial spaces.
The first application for planning permission for the cemetery was made in July 2014 and was for 4,000 burial plots, which was refused.
This was increased to 7,000 on an adjacent site a month later, but this application was withdrawn.
The latest application is for a total of 3,333 plots.
According to a report by Cemetery Development Services, the site will be operated by a charity called Thaqwa Cemetery, which provides 'a low cost dignified burial at a freehold plot according to Islamic beliefs and culture'.
The report adds: 'After the departure of the soul, human being has been buried since beginning.
'Other methods of disposing of human remain are relatively new. Being the oldest Monotheists, Muslims have always maintained the ancient burial system.
'To preserve this centuries old tradition in this part of the world we acquired a plot of land in the Catherine-De-Barnes area of Solihull after consulting and obtaining positive response from Solihull Metropolitan Borough.
The cemetery has received backing from the Muslim community in Solihull, who said there was a desperate need for more burial spaces
'It is also an established fact that there is a shortage of burial places across the country.
'Birmingham and Solihull regions are not an exception. Thaqwa Cemetery is a positive endeavour in meeting the community burial need.'
Funeral director Mohammed Khalil, of Birmingham-based ZUQ Funeral Services, said even 3,000 burial plots would barely provide enough space for the next 50 years.
He said: 'The local Muslim population is growing rapidly.
'Don't forget, the people who came here in the 1950s and 1960s are now old and dying fast.
'Before, they used to send people back home to their families in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
'But apparently now all their families are here and they have no-one back home.
'They are saying 'this is our country now. We are living here and dying here so we should be buried here.'