There’s nothing certain in this world but death and taxes and Derry City & Strabane District Council are considering using the latter - i.e. rates - to buy a plot of land in Killea for a new cemetery as capacity in Creggan rapidly runs out.
DC&SDC’s Head of Environment Conor Canning told members of the Council’s Environment and Regeneration Committee this week that the City Cemetery is likely to close for new burials sometime between 2023 and 2025.
However, existing plots will still be opened for secondary burials up to 2043.
“We have somewhere between five and seven years for new burials,” Mr. Canning told the committee on Wednesday.
He said it was “imperative” the Council acted now in order to address an impending capacity shortfall on Derry City’s westbank.
Members were advised that the Council had identified lands suitable for development as a municipal cemetery at four sites on the city side of Derry.
Four of these were in Killea with one in Culmore.
Mr. Canning reported to the committee that “the highest scoring site is located adjacent to an existing Council cemetery at Killea and more recently the officer team met with the landowners to outline the process and to confirm that the lands are available should site investigations prove positive”.
It was revealed that it was the second time the Council had carried out an exercise to identify lands for a civic burial site and that on the first occasion a blank had been drawn.
Though members of the committee mandated officers to engage Land and Property Services (LPS) to assist Council in acquiring the plot of over 100 acres should site investigations confirm its suitability several expressed concern over its remoteness from the city side’s major population centres.
SDLP Councillor Brian Tierney said he had concerns about the road network and public transport connections.
He remarked that while working as a taxi driver seven years ago a fare to Killea from the city was around £6 to £7 and he suggested it was likely to be more than that now.
“The city is expanding but not in that direction,” he added.
Colr. Tierney’s concerns were echoed by a number of committee members, however, Mr. Canning told the committee that there were simply no suitable, affordable development sites close to Derry’s main residential populations.
The Council environment chief indicated that some level of travel will be needed to get to the city side cemeteries of the future.