According to Portsmouth North MP Penny Mordaunt, when The Southern Co-operative opened new premises in Tangier Road, Copnor last year the company said they would only be used as an office.
Local residents seemingly had no objection to the idea of coffins being sold and funeral arrangements being made in their street. But now The Co-op wants to turn the office into a funeral parlour, those who live nearby are objecting strongly.
They don’t like the idea of bodies being stored and viewed close to their homes.
Feelings are running high and we can understand why some people may be alarmed at the prospect of a chapel of rest being created on their doorstep.
But we believe a big part of the problem has been residents not being properly informed of exactly what is proposed in their midst.
Surely it would have been better if The Co-op had tried to engage with local people and had sought to assuage their fears?
Instead, there is a sense of mistrust because all the residents know is that the chapel of rest plan, which was rejected by the city council’s planning committee in November, is back on the agenda. An appeal against that decision will be heard on February 1.
Why did The Co-op not tell the local community and the council at the outset that the premises could end up being used as a funeral parlour, not just office space?
We understand people’s concerns, whether to do with their children being confronted with the difficult subject of death, a claimed increase in traffic or what they perceive may be an effect on property prices. But the fact is that funeral parlours do already operate in other residential areas.
As those not opposed to one in Tangier Road say, if they are run discreetly and respectfully they can play an important and problem-free role in the community.
Yet because of how The Co-op has handled the situation, convincing campaigners of that now is going to be nigh-on impossible.