A RURAL cemetery is up for sale for £385,000 and could become a new crematorium.

Ribble Valley Remembrance Park, Mitton Road, Whalley, is being marketed by chartered surveyors Peter E Gilkes & Co, who hope a private firm will build a crematorium.

The 3.7 acre site has a driveway leading through mature woodland to the graveyard which was used by Calderstones Hospital.

The last interment was around 1970, although some scattering of ashes has taken place up to 2003.

The site contains an archway between two small chapels. Much of the burial area is overgrown.

Beyond the site is a small, well maintained, war grave memorial burial ground for 33 World War One dead and World War Two soldiers who stayed at the hospital, which had around 2,000 beds during the conflicts. That site is not part of the land being sold.

Peter Gilkes, whose Chorley-based firm is acting as agent for the owner, said: “My client has owned the cemetery for several years. He had intended to build a crematorium and has planning permission.

“However his personal circumstances have changed and he wishes to sell the land. We believe a crematorium for the Ribble Valley area is viable and there are several private companies who run crematoriums.

“A national company specialising in sites of this nature has prepared a valuation estimating the value when the building is complete to be £1.75m and when complete and trading maturity achieved to be £2.2m.

“The current graves would not be disturbed and there is scope for more burials at the site.” Mr Gilkes added that there had been several expressions of interest.

Currently, cremations for those living in the area take place at Pleasington, Burnley, Accrington or Preston.

A typical cremation charge is currently around £500, however this is estimated to be 70 per cent less than the costs of a burial.

In recent years more private companies have taken on the running of crematoriums across Britain.

One example of a private firm opening such a facility is Charnock Richard Crematorium, near Chorley, which is run by Memoria Ltd and was built in 2007.

In January, Ribble Valley Council granted planning permission for a crematorium and funeral chapel together with car park.

The sales notice on the Peter E Gilkes & Co website, said: “The site provides the opportunity of developing a high standard crematorium and providing a high quality service to the surrounding affluent area of the Ribble Valley, noted for its wealthy residents.”