ALMOST 400 bodies will be exhumed after Thurrock Council’s planning committee gave the green light to build 15 homes on the site of an old chapel.

The site, on North Road, in South Ockendon, was deemed suitable by members for 12 one bedroom flats and three two bedroom flats.

The bodies currently resting at The Old Chapel would need to be exhumed, but this can only be done after approval has been granted by the Ministry of Justice.

Agent John Newton also assured members that a consultation telling residents if their family were to be moved would be held before any work began.

Concerns were raised by councillors Barry Johnson, Tunde Ojetola, Terry Hipsey, Charlie Curtis and Phil Anderson regarding the exhumation, road access and safety but a majority voted in favour of approval.

Cllr Ojetola said: “The issue about exhumation is a sensitive one and my main concern is that the applicant is trying to make a profit out of this.

“The applicant will have three years to build if permission is given and I am sceptical as to whether there will be enough time for this to go to the Ministry of justice and for all the relevant people to be contacted.”

Cllr Curtis told members he was worried about the width of the pavement on North Road and was concerned that refuse trucks backing into the site as opposed to waiting on the roadside would cause congestion on an already busy road.

He said: “It is a very busy road and I think widening the pavement is an important aspect to be considered. I think this is absolutely essential.”

Cllr Steve Liddiard spoke in favour of the application, saying the petrol station next door should not put off potential buyers as there are people using it regularly.

The application was passed by six votes to three.