OMAGH could lose out on becoming the location for the only crematorium in the west despite having planning approval already in place for the facility.
Greenhill Cemetery has been earmarked for the £1million development on the Gortin Road site since the proposal was initially unveiled in 2012.
But now Fermanagh and Omagh District Council is being accused of ‘scoring an own goal’ amid warnings over the involvement of both Derry and Strabane and Mid-Ulster Councils in the project.
Local councillors fear that this latest move could sound the death knell for hopes that only the second crematorium in the whole of the North would be built in Omagh.
It’s the latest setback for the development which has been beset by legal issues in recent years.
Independent councillor, Josephine Deehan, said she is worried that the town would once again ‘draw the short straw’ and miss out.
“I don’t have any problem collaborating with Derry and Strabane and the Mid-Ulster Councils. But we should make it clear to them from the outset that we want the crematorium in Omagh,” she said. “The location has to be a non-negotiable part of the talks that we enter into with the other councils. We have got the site, it has planning permission and is easily accessible. This crematorium plan is our baby and our project. Too much time, effort and resources have been invested in it for us to lose out at this stage. It is the height of folly to be entering into the preparation of a business case for another site when we already have one clearly identified, with planning approval attached.”
“There is no guarantee that the other councils will support a site in Omagh and that is why we should have the pre-condition in relation to the location,” she added.
Another independent councillor, Sorcha McAnespy, is calling for the council to adopt a ‘ruthless’ approach on the issue. She said past experience in relation to other promised facilities such as the mental health unit at the new Omagh Hospital ensured that they had to be cautious.
“The fact is that we don’t have the population mass here in Omagh that they have in Derry. This crematorium is the kind of thing that we need to be strong on and insist that it’s based in Omagh,” she said.
“We have to make sure that the people know that the road goes both ways, instead of scoring an own goal and giving away our advantage in this.”
Sinn Féin’s Martin McColgan described Greenhill as a ‘viable’ location and said that the plans for the crematorium would be enhanced by a ‘collaborative approach’ from the other two councils.
But the Chief Executive, Brendan Hegarty, said that they couldn’t enter a talks process with the other councils with preconditions.
“The work to develop a business case has to be allow to be development properly and independently,” he said.
“We cannot insist that a business case is taken forward on the basis that the crematorium is Omagh.”