The Council of State has blocked plans to turn part of a nature reserve into a burial ground, Trouw reports on Monday.
The burial ground was to take up 24 hectares of nature reserve Huis ter Heide in the province of Brabant and some 6.5 hectares of woodland would have been cleared to make room for an unspecified number of graves.
After protests from locals and environmental organisation Het Groene Hart van Brabant, the country’s highest administrative court has decided that by giving the green light to the plans without properly looking into the consequences, local council Loon op Zand has failed in its duty to protect the woodland.
The decision will come as a ‘great disappointment’ to owner Natuurmonumenten and its business partner burial firm Natuurgraven, the paper writes.
The natural heritage body, which owns some 100,000 hectares of land in the Netherlands, has many members who wish to be buried in a nature reserve. A leaked report from 2012 showed that Natuurmonumenten expected to make €200,000 to €400,000 profit from burying people on its own land.
But many people object to the plans, which include burial grounds in the Bonnenpolder near Hoek van Holland and Heerenduin near Santpoort. ‘It is a completely wrong concept to bury people in nature reserves,’ the paper quotes former lawyer and opponent Theodoor Sandberg as saying. ‘I want to walk around in the woods with my children or grandchildren without bumping into graves.’
According to Sandberg Natuurmonumenten has spotted a business opportunity. ‘Natuurmonumenten members represent a very big concentration of elderly people. Four years ago the average age of its 700,000 members was 62. It is the perfect target audience,’ he told the paper.
In a reaction, Natuurmonumenten said it understands people’s concerns about the accessibility of nature areas but claims it would always consult the local population on how the area is to be used.
Natuurgraven director Roy van Boekel, who opened the first natural burial ground on the Heidepol estate near Arnhem in 2012, said the protection of the woodland would be looked into.
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