Moonies' burial site is approved

Swindon Advertiser, UK/July 14, 2010

A religious sect has been granted planning permission to create a burial ground in a village near Swindon.

The Family Federation For World Peace And Unification, more commonly known as the Moonies, can now turn a field in Stanton Fitzwarren into a memorial woodland burial site, despite objections from the parish council, the local councillor and villagers.

They said the proposals were too large and would lead to traffic and parking problems in the village. It was also noted that there were natural springs and the remains of a Roman villa nearby.

But planning officers at Swindon Council recommended that the plans be approved because they complied with local development, countryside, amenity and transport policies.

The church wants to use the one acre plot for 273 burial plots, primarily for members of the church but also for villagers if they want. It said there would be no more than five burials a year.

Councillor Doreen Dart (Con), who lives in the village, voted against the plans when they came up for discussion at the council's planning committee meeting on Tuesday night.

She said: "I had a lot of concerns. I can't see how anybody can say that there will be only five burials a year - you don't know how many people are going to die each year.

"Also Stanton Fitzwarren itself has very narrow road through the village and to get any traffic through is very difficult."

She said each burial would mean more cars in the village and traffic disruption.

She denied the objections were based on villagers being against the church's presence in the village.

"When I came here 35 years ago they had hordes of people coming every weekend. They used to go into the fields where they had a sacred tree and pray, talk and meet people.

"They had a lot of people that lived in the cottages in the village, but they are mostly rented out now. Now there's only really the farm and the equestrian centre. It's very low key."

The Unification Church has a long history in the village, dating back to the 1970s when a local man, Henry Masters, donated his £800,000 South Farm estate to them and it became their centre for training. It hosted many seminars and workshops for the religion's followers in the UK.

It now owns another 21 properties in the village, which are rented out, along with much of the farmland.

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