CAMPAIGNERS have marked a first victory against a developer building on a cemetery after the Diocese of Blackburn found evidence of ashes buried on the site.

This year, All Faiths Remembrance Parks Ltd started building work on Calderstones Cemetery, Whalley, after it received planning permission for a crematorium, funeral chapel and car park.

But the development was halted following claims it was being built on consecrated land where more than 1,000 patients from Calderstones Hospital, a mental institution, were laid to rest.

Residents and relatives of loved ones at the site said they had been left ‘appalled’ and ‘disgusted’ by the developer for not checking if the land was consecrated before they started the works. They included an Australian couple, who have a relative who was buried at the cemetery in 1929.

The developer submitted an application to the Diocese of Blackburn, which covers Lancashire, asking them to transfer land at Calderstones Cemetery, in Mitton Lane, from sacred to secular use.

The Bishop of Blackburn has now withdrawn the developer’s application to de-consecrate parts of the former hospital cemetery because they thought it was ‘not appropriate’ to proceed with the development after finding evidence of ashes buried there.

A spokesman said: “The Archdeacon of Blackburn made an application to the Bishop of Blackburn to remove the legal effects of consecration from part of Calderstones Cemetery.

“Submissions received in response to public notice of the application included evidence that there are ashes buried in part of the area relating to the application.

“Accordingly, it was not appropriate for the application to proceed, and the Archdeacon has withdrawn his application.

“Any application to move the ashes would have to be made by a petition for a faculty to the Consistory Court.”

Whalley resident and community member Mel Diack said: “We are pleased with this first step.

“It’s a big first step and quite an emotional one in many ways and we hope it won’t be the last. There’s still a long way to go.

“I would call on anybody who has a relative or knows anyone buried at the cemetery to contact Friends and Families of the Cemetery via myself on 01254 823012.”

The developer will now have to decide whether to submit an new application to move the ashes by petitioning to a higher religious authority, the Consistory Court. All Faiths Remembrance Parks Ltd has been contacted for comment.