A MULTI-million pound crematorium scheme remains in limbo following a heated debate.
Borough councillors met in the Civic Hall last night (Tuesday) to discuss plans by the Westerleigh Group to build the facility in Waterworks Lane, Hooton.
They heard representations from objectors and supporters for an hour before airing their own views, at times to shouts and boos from the 70-80 members of the public present.
Cllr Myles Hogg, in whose Willaston & Thornton ward the crem would be sited, called it 'probably the single-most controversial application the council has ever had'.
He, and fellow Tory Cllrs Pat Dowding and Gareth Anderson, opposed the scheme, which would be in the Green Belt, saying the countryside needing protection.
Cllr Hogg said it could 'demonstrably harm' Hooton, raising concerns about the area's wildlife and the habitat of Great Crested Newts, a European protected species.
Cllr Anderson said: 'We can do better than this.'
But Labour councillors spoke in favour of the plans. Angela Clay-don and Joe O'Rourke had together received well over 100 notices of support from their constituents, they said.
Cllr Claydon added: 'This borough needs a crematorium. This site is in the countryside, but would be opposite the railway station with industrial units nearby.
'Yes, we have to ensure the newts' habitat is protected, but I feel the needs of people come before newts.'
Council planners had recommended the scheme for refusal. Four voted in favour of this, and six against.
Planning chairman Cllr Mark Henesy said: 'We have not refused it, but we have not granted it either.
'We need a further report to planning. We need to have more details before a final decision can be made.'
Speaking afterwards, Westerleigh managing director Richard Evans, who interrupted his honeymoon for the meeting, said: 'We will only be satisfied when we are finally able to provide what is an absolutely essential service for this borough.'
He said the facility would provide 1,260 cremations a year, seat 96 people with another 150 standing, have a garden of remembrance, a landscaping and conservation scheme, and provide four full-time and two part-time jobs.
The proposal has split the community, with Hooton Cremation Action and Childer Thornton Conservation Association against it and Neston Civic Society, the chair of Wirral Green Belt Council and local clergy and funeral directors for it.