Plans by the billionaire owners of Asda to build Europe’s biggest Muslim cemetery have been blasted by a council conservation officer.
A report into the proposed 35,000-plot cemetery in the West Pennines in Lancashire has stated it would be ‘at odds’ with the local heritage.
In a report, Hyndburn Council said the ‘visual unity’ of the surrounding countryside ‘would be lost’ if the 84-acre Issa Memorial Garden was built.
The proposed cemetery, funded by the charitable arm of billionaire brothers Zuber and Mohsin Issa, is set to cover a space the size of 40 football pitches.
This site, close to the small town of Oswaldtwistle, Blackburn, Lancs, would dwarf the current largest Muslim cemetery, The Garden of Peace, north London, which holds 10,000 plots.
Thousands of locals have objected to the plans so far, citing concerns over congestion and its potential affects on wildlife.
Now, council officials have raised their own concerns about the burial ground, which is due to feature a ‘funeral parlour’, caretaker accommodation and over 660 car parking spaces.
A report written by the council’s conservation officer says the new development ‘is visually at odds with the historic landscape.’
The cemetery would be funded by the charity of billionaire brothers Zuber and Mohsin Issa
The 84-acre Issa Memorial Garden would be built to the west of Blackburn, Lancs., and will have 35,000 burial plots
It adds: ‘The present visual unity of the Green Belt countryside would be lost, and the cemetery would separate the fields of Cow Hill from the surviving fields of Stand Hill.’
‘The cut and fill of the proposed development would destroy any archaeological or other heritage assets which lie within the boundary of the site.
‘The scheme would divert the two historic tracks, which are public footpaths, and harm the rural setting of heritage assets described above.’
The damning report now says council executives will have to come to a judgement as to whether the proposal’s benefits outweigh its potential harm.
It says: ‘In assessing the application, the case officer and planning committee will need to come to a judgement as to whether the public benefits of the scheme outweigh the above harm, taking on board the legal duty with regard to the setting of the listed building and other planning issues.’
An Environment Agency report, submitted by officials in December, objected to the application due to a possible pollution risk to groundwater.
It said: ‘The proposed cemetery development could pose an unacceptable risk of pollution of groundwater, and it is questionable as to whether it would meet the minimum requirements.’
In an earlier statement, the Issa Foundation said that the cemetery was urgently needed as there was a lack of burial plots in the North West.
This new site would dwarf the current largest Muslim cemetery, The Garden of Peace, which opened in East London in 2002 and holds 10,000 plots
They said: ‘Need for Muslim burial plots within the North West of England has become critical, a situation made worse by Covid 19.
‘The proposal is a matter of public interest for the Muslim community and is of strategic importance for the North West area.’
This new site is close to the Issa brothers’ £100million Frontier Park complex, which has a service station, several food outlets, and a ‘Hampton by Hilton’ hotel.
The foundation said that this new development is aimed at Muslim communities across East Lancashire, serving them for the next 50 to 100 years.
The services it provides will cover all the transport arrangements for the deceased.
This will include the pick up of the Janaza (deceased) from the home, hospital or mortuary, transport to the local mosque or Ghusal (washing) facility, where the Ghusal and shrouding will be performed, and then the final transport to the cemetery.
The burial plots would be set oriented ‘towards Qibla’ – Mecca as is Islamic tradition.
The Issa Foundation was established in 2016 as a not-for-profit charity.
All proceeds from the business will be utilised to provide ongoing funeral services within the Muslim Community and none of the directors or the volunteers will benefit financially from the service it offered.