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Sutton, St. James Graveyard

Sutton, St. James Graveyard

A consultation questionnaire "Have Your Say" was sent our to the community in Febuary 2022 

A summary of the results are: 

(Downloadable copy here)

A brief summary of the comments can be seen here

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PCC responses to the comments and questions in the community consultation. 

(Downloadable copy here)

  • Practical Comments and Questions. 

A clear map

How many spaces are left?
As of August 2022 in the St James churchyard extension, there are 3 spaces left for new graves in the present row, with a possible additional 6 spaces on the opposite side. Spaces in family graves are not affected by this. 
There are no known ‘available’ plots left in the old churchyard.

Boundaries of the parish

This doesn’t include the other churches in our benefice nor would this change if civil parish boundaries were altered, since it is the ecclesiatical boundary that applies. 
Who is the Joint Working Party (JWP) and what is their role?
The JWP, was set up after the public meeting held on 8th September 2021 to agree the future of the Sutton St. James graveyard. It is made up of representatives of the Parochial church council (PCC), the Parish Council and the wider community. 
The JWPs role is to find the most practical way forward that balances issues including cost, the environment, the future and other constraints. Its goal is to find a solution that works on all levels. It recommends proposals to the PCC and keeps the PC informed. 
Whilst everyone can note their wishes for their funeral arrangements in their will including a wish to be buried, this can never be guaranteed, but every effort would be made to accommodate these wishes where possible. Anyone living in the parish has a right to be buried in the churchyard if it is still open. Unfortunately it is not possible to purchase a grave plot for future use. People from the parish who wish it are buried on a “first come first served” basis while grave plots are still available.

  • Comments on burials and the memorial garden. 

Comments were received in support of a memorial garden, “a quiet space”, “a wild garden”, “a memory garden”, “a community space”, “a space to scatter ashes with easy access'' and comments were received in support of further burials in the local parish, suggesting that this is an important issue . 

  • Comments and Questions on Costs. 

What are current fees for burials?
The church currently charges approx £360 for a burial of a body in the church yard (not including individual costs of funeral directors, services, headstones etc.) this is in line with parochial fee structures of the Church of England. The church is not able to change these fees ensuring burials are available to all who choose them. The fees for cremations are less. 
The Church and costs.
The church has and is paying for the upkeep of the current graveyard. Finances however are finite and the PCC has to make decisions on a regular basis about how the money it has is spent. These decisions are not always easy; It is felt that the ever expanding graveyard is not a sustainable cost for the future. 
While the Church of England has considerable investments Sutton St James is not a rich church. Of the income it has, £43,000 is paid to Chester Diocese for the Parish Share (this contributes to the clergy stipend throughout the diocese and is set according to census data). The rest has to be split between the overheads of running a parish church, maintenance of both the graveyard and the church buildings being the greatest expenditure.
General concerns on costs
The costs of an extension to the graveyard are yet unknown, however, the JWP guarantee they will be kept as low as feasibly possible with all avenues for funding will be explored. The cost of the memorial garden has already been gifted to the PCC. 

  • Comments and Questions on Communications. 

Issues in Church communication with the parish.
The PCC wishes to apologise for any unintended hurt caused by our decision not to extend the churchyard for new burials, without prior consultation with the community. The pace at which the present extension has/is being filled has surprised us and we are seeking to find additional ways we can continue to provide a place for loved ones to be remembered for the foreseeable future. We acknowledge the strength of feeling in the community to provide burial space and are grateful for the opportunity to serve parishioners in this way. The affection with which the church is held in the hearts of the community is deeply encouraging and is reciprocated by all at St James.

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A proposal of a way forward was put by the JWP to the PCC in July 2022 and approved. 

Sutton St. James’ Church Graveyard Submission to the PCC by the JWP

(Downloadable copy here)

  • The Joint Working Party 

1. Who are the Joint Working Party?
The Joint Working Party (JWP) is made up of three representatives from the PCC: John Evans (Warden), Liz Davis, and Rev Anna C-P (Curate). Rev John was on the committee but stepped down in April, (substituted by Anna). They are joined by four representatives of a group of community members who are interested in finding a way to continue burials in the Churchyard: Tony Greenham (Chair), Richard May, Simon Pearce and Jane Clarkson (Secretary). And two representatives from the Parish Council: Tim Whiskard and Ruth Chamberlain. 
2. What have they done?
The JWP have met since the open meeting in  September 2021 and discussed in depth the issues surrounding the graveyard at Sutton St. James. A major part of that discussion was the preparation of the ‘Have Your Say’ community consultation. The questionnaire went out to over 1200 homes and received 126 replies (the results can be seen above). From the results of the questionnaire, further research and some animated debate the JWP put forward this proposal to the PCC for your consideration. 

  • Main Points of Debate

Before getting to the proposal it is important to outline some of the issues the JWP have been discussing. 
1. PCCs Decision 
Rev John summarised the  principal reasons for closing the graveyard as:
a. The results of the 2006 ground survey
b. The unsustainable costs which the Church were no longer able to bear
c. A requirement in the Parish for some form of Memorial  Garden for the scattering of ashes and a ‘quiet space’.

2.  Updated Environmental Information
Enquiries made to the Environment Agency suggest that burials would be possible on Glebe field one based on existing geological surveys / maps etc. which they hold. However, a full  Environment Agency site specific risk assessment would still need to be done.         
3. Community Feeling
The petition, the open meeting and the results of the questionnaire all show that  there were nearly 100 families for whom burial is very important and the church’s lack of effective communication at the time of the initial PCC decision has left a number of people feeling very unhappy and uncertain of the future, given the background to the 1983 Gift Day Appeal for funds to  help replenish church funds after the PCC had purchased the fields.
4. The Importance of the Memorial Garden
The PCCs decision to focus on a Memorial Garden was borne out by the results of the questionnaire as something that is also popular in the community. 
5. Governance
To respect the original decision from the PCC the suggestion was made to set up a  separate trust with a separate governance structure. However, the questionnaire results show that whilst some were keen, it was not something that had sufficient support at present to take it forward, however could be reconsidered when more information was available.
6. Finance
As a result of the questionnaire, a number of people have donated toward the land survey and there is hope and expectation from the JWP that the community will fund the set up costs of whatever is decided. It is to be made very clear that any gifts towards the graveyard DO NOT in any way constitute the guarantee of a burial plot, nor buys the person a burial plot if the extension goes ahead. 
7. The Future 
The JWP agreed that an extension about the same size as the existing extension could provide for approximately 30 years and perhaps 140 graves subject to design and planning. However It is important to publicise that any other further extension is unlikely for the following reasons:

The original PCC decision was about money, suitability and sustainability, but it was also about the church’s mission; where and how we see ourselves in the future and how we use our resources and funds, getting the balance right. That decision currently stands. However, the final decision will lie with the PCC of the time and they will consider the needs of the village at the time. 

The current proposed extension on Glebe field one represents the most likely, viable, sustainable and cheapest option for a graveyard- any proposals for Glebe field two would require a lot more work and cost. If the current trend towards a preference for cremation over burial continues there is unlikely to be enough support for any future extension or sufficient funding. 

We cannot see into the future, and decisions will be made at the appropriate time; however, it is important to communicate the current expectations to allow people to make alternative arrangements due to the expected unlikelihood of future extensions. 

  • Some Assurances 

The JWP feel they can give some assurances to the PCC in regard to the three main reasons given for the closure of the graveyard. 
1. A new survey, with the PCCs permission, will be undertaken and paid for by donation from the community and at no cost to the PCC; to conclusively show the suitability of Glebe field one for burials. 
2. The JWP are confident that money to fund the start up of an extension, will be covered by the community at no cost to the PCC. No work will be done until funding is secured. However, the JWP ask that the PCC will take on the maintenance of any extension that will be as cost effective as possible. The PCC would keep control of the governance of any extension and use the current criteria and cost structure for burials. 
3. A Memorial Garden will be integral to any plan set out. Submitting the Memorial Garden with a graveyard extension for planning permission will overcome some of the obstacles the first submission faced. 

  • The Proposal 

In short the JWP are asking the PCC to consider:
1.  Allowing a new survey to be done on Glebe field one. 
2. If the ground survey results are favourable for burials, to allow an extension to the current graveyard, of about the same size as the present extension The final layout etc. would come back to the PCC for approval. 
3. That the PCC will take on the maintenance of the extension as part of the current graveyard. 

The conditions of the agreement will be that:

  •  None of the costs of the survey and setting up of the graveyard extension would fall on the PCC.
  • All money donated toward the cost of the graveyard will represent a gift to the church and be recognized by all as such. Payments/donations when received will be paid into a dedicated bank account. It will be understood that money given does NOT in any way constitute the guarantee of a burial plot, nor buys the person a burial plot in the future. 
  • All proposals will include a Memorial Garden (that funding has already been pledged for) and all the costs of which would be borne by the PCC.
  • All plans for any future graveyard use would be considered by the PCC at the appropriate time and discussed with parishioners (However, see point 7)

Agreed Submission  – 24 June 2022
Proposal Accepted by PCC - 18 July 2022
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An update for the community August 2022

(Downloadable copy here)

SUTTON ST. JAMES. Graveyard Consultation update.

The Joint Working Party (JWP), was set up after the public meeting held on 8th September 2021 to agree the future of the Sutton St. James graveyard. It is made up of representatives of the Parochial church council (PCC), the Parish Council and the wider community.

We wish to thank everyone who responded to the consultation questionnaire ‘have your say’. The responses received showed strong support for a Memorial Garden and an extension to the existing graveyard; there was some, but less, support for the idea of an Independent Trust. The full breakdown of results as well as the PCC’s responses to some of the questions/comments can be found above

We were guided by the consultation and agreed upon recommendations to be put to the PCC. The PCC has now approved our recommendations, (The full proposal can be found above.)

A brief summary of the agreed proposals:
1. A site investigation to investigate the ground conditions will be carried out on Field one. If the results are favourable:
2. A planning application will be made for a joint scheme for an extension to the graveyard similar in size to the present 2007 extension with an additional area for a Memorial Garden and;
3.  If approved, the cost of the graveyard element of this is to be met by the Community and funds have already begun to be raised for this. The costs relating to the Memorial Garden and the maintenance and control of the completed project will remain with the PCC.

The future
The sustainability and lack of burial grounds is a national issue and one that will not get any easier with time. Therefore the PCC expects any further future extension of the graveyard to be unlikely so this is something for everyone to bear in mind.  However, the final decision of course will be one taken at the appropriate time by the PCC of the time after discussion with parishioners.
What is happening now
Arrangements are now being made to begin the site investigation process the initial outcome of which will determine if and how the proposal can be progressed and a clearer idea of the likely costs that will need to be raised. We will keep the community informed of our progress.

Contact the JWP: Any queries may be addressed to
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Planning Application Details February 2023

Link to Cheshire East Planning Website 

The Joint Working Party, on behalf of St. James PCC have applied for planning permission for the extended graveyard and quiet area. 

The designs, plans and supporting documents are avaliable for comment at the above link and we encourage all interested parties to comment before the deadline of the 15th March 2023

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Update June 2023

Where are we up to?
On the 10th May 2023 planning permission was granted for the 
‘Change of use to extend existing graveyard, formation of a "quiet area" and service access and pathway’.

Since then the JWP have been hard at work clarifying plans and gathering quotes for the work to be done. 

What is the next step?
The next steps are to apply for a Church facility for the work and to transfer the ownership of the land from the PCC to the incumbent (all churchyards have to be in the name of the incumbent). 

A change- Scattering of Ashes  
During the process of the next steps, we have become aware that because the quiet area is attached to a graveyard it has to become part of the churchyard, and therefore it must comply with all rules of churchyards.  This means that unfortunately the scattering of ashes is not officially permitted. We were unaware at the beginning of this process that this would be the case and apologise for not identifying this sooner. The quiet area will still have a wildflower area and will still be a place for remembering loved ones. 

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