WORK on a £1million project to more than double the size of Pleasington Cemetery has been delayed by at least three months.

The expansion of the Blackburn graveyard was due to start before Christmas and be finished by summer next year.

It will not now start until April at the earliest with the completion date put back to winter 2014.

The delay is caused by sorting out the legal details of a land transfer of council-owned grazing land to the relevant department of the council.

As a result, the £250,000 expected to have been spent on preparing the land for the cemetery works before March 31 has been carried forward into the 2013/14 financial year.

The cemetery, off Tower Road, is predicted be full within three years, and more space is needed for both Church of England and Muslim burials before the borough runs out of plots.

More than 500 burials a year take place in two of the borough’s five cemeteries — 400 of them at Pleasington — which has 9,000 graves.

Blackburn with Darwen Council is extending the site into four hectares of land at nearby Lower Fold, to provide up to 12,000 plots providing space for interments for up to 30 years. Several potential sites were considered, but the grazing land at Lower Fold was chosen as the most suitable because of the groundwater conditions.

Tony Watson, head of environmental services, said: “Work is due to start on the cemetery extension over the next few weeks. However, this will very much depend on the weather and may take up to 18 months to complete.”

Coun Faryad Hussain, borough council executive board member for environmental services, said of the £1million scheme: “The cemetery will run out of space in the next few years and extending Pleasington Cemetery using council-owned land, rather than build a new one elsewhere at extra expense, is the most cost-effective option.”