Community's bid to breathe new life into empty home at cemetery

Cemetery House at Spitalford Cemetery. Picture by Jane Coltman
Cemetery House at Spitalford Cemetery. Picture by Jane Coltman

A north Northumberland community is taking matters into its own hands in a bid to create a new affordable home to let.

Rather than selling it and creating another second home in the area, Embleton Joint Burial Committee (EJBC) plans to convert Cemetery House into a home for social rent using a grant and a public loan.

The house at Spitalford Cemetery, which is jointly owned by the parish councils of Embleton, Craster and Newton-by-the-Sea, has been unoccupied since the last cemetery caretaker left in March 2017.

A recent letter to parishioners explained: ‘The house is in poor condition and could not be let to a new tenant without considerable renovation work.

‘The EJBC considered selling the house in its current condition and received an offer of some £170,000 from a buyer who wished to use it as a second home.

‘The committee was concerned about the sale of the asset, the loss of control of the use of the house which is within the cemetery and creating yet another second home in the area.’

This decision coincided with a new Government scheme offering grants via local authorities for the renovation of properties intended to be let as affordable homes.

The letter continues: ‘Quotations for the renovation of the property were sought and received, and that from a local builder was chosen.

‘Allowing for contingencies, and taking account of cash-flow requirements, it was agreed that a total sum of approximately £75,000 was required.’

The EJBC, having applied for the maximum grant of £50,000, was subsequently successful in being offered £49,500.

The purpose of the letter to residents was to consult with them as the EJBC proposes approach the Public Works Loan Board for a loan of £25,000 at a fixed interest rate of two per cent over a 13-year period.

Repayments would be set at £2,180 a year funded from the rental of the affordable home, which is forecast to produce around £5,400 annually.

The excess income will be used to build up a fund for the long-term maintenance of the house.

The area’s county councillor, Wendy Pattison, is very much in support of the proposal, describing it as ‘fantastic’ and ‘forward-thinking’.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service