Work to extend a Birmingham cemetery has run into a net loss after rare crayfish helped stack up a £3.5 million bill.
Plans to add 12,000 more burial plots over 20 acres of farmland at Sutton New Hall Cemetery, in Lindridge Road, was expected to cost £4.95 million – until a large-scale problem emerged.
The Environment Agency highlighted a 319-year-old pond, with endangered white clawed crayfish living there, and pushed the price up to £8.5 million.
Funds will have to be borrowed and paid back through income from the city’s burial services following the intervention.
The agency ordered extra drainage and water flow work be done to ensure that the historic Lindridge Pool, dug in 1697 and downhill from the Sutton Coldfield graveyard, is preserved.
There is evidence the pool and Langley Brook are home to the white clawed crayfish, which is Britain’s only native freshwater crayfish and currently under threat in the wild due to an invasion from the North American signal crayfish.
Coun Anne Underwood (Con Sutton Four Oaks) said she was astonished that council officials had not taken account of the pool in the initial plans.
She said: “The pool was dug in 1697, the brook has been there even longer than that. Why didn’t somebody pick up the fact there was likely to be an issue around that. It’s slipshod to say the least.”
The extension is needed to cope with the demand for burials in Birmingham as Witton cemetery is already full and Handsworth is fast running out.
Work begins on the extension next month as Sutton New Hall cemetery itself is expected to run out of existing plots by December.
Last year, planning permission was given for the installation of floodlights at the cemetery to allow for burials to take place until 8pm in the evening - again due to increased demand.
Coun Tahir Ali, the Labour cabinet member for development, said: “This will ensure we have burial facilities in Birmingham to meet demand for the next 18 years.”