THE entrance to a commonwealth war grave site has been boarded off, causing misery for residents in the run up to Remembrance Day.

Access to the Military Cemetery at Queen Mary’s Hospital in Whalley has been restricted since developers halted work on a proposed crematorium earlier this year.

And residents have been left angered after discovering they can no longer freely enter the site to pay their respects without ‘arranged escorted access via a designated route’.

Nina Johnson who lives in Mellor, said she feels ashamed at the fact the graves have been covered up with hideous wooden hoardings.

Mrs Johnson, 63, said: “If you want to go and visit the war graves you now have to ring someone to get the key to unlock the gates.

“I feel ashamed. Every other Commonwealth war grave site can be accessed with ease, but this one is boarded off.

“There’s signs up all over Whalley saying how proud they are to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War but the graves have been covered up.”

A planning application was approved to build a new multi-faith crematorium and car park in the grounds of Queen Mary’s Hospital Cemetery -which is separate to the Military Cemetery - in 2015.

However, work was halted on the site after residents called on C of E leaders to put a stop to the development for fear of disturbing graves on consecrated land.

A new planning application was submitted to Ribble Valley Council in the summer, by Buildings of Remembrance International Ltd (BORI) to vary conditions on the original planning approval.

When put to Ribble Valley Borough Council’s planning officer, they issued this response: “The fencing off of the war graves site is the decision of the landowner and we wouldn’t have anything to do with it; we can’t control the access to the site through the planning system.”

Leader of Ribble Valley Council, Cllr Ken Hind said: “I have deep sympathy with residents and relatives who want to pay their respects.

“The fencing around Military Cemetery is caused by a new planning application that has been made to vary the conditions of the original.

“There is contention at the moment with the application in regards to breaching the Cremations Act 1902.

“This is nothing to do with the council and I have deep disquiet about it all.”

Section five of the Cremations Act 1902 states: “No crematorium shall be constructed within fifty yards of any public highway, nor in the consecrated part of the burial ground of any burial authority.”

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website states: “The Commission has made arrangements with the company responsible for the development adjacent to Queen Mary’s Hospital Military Cemetery for visitors to gain access to the site.

“Please call 07722 125153 or 07841 703504 to arrange escorted access via the designated route between Monday and Friday.

“For access at the weekend please contact Calderstone Hospital.”

Mr Hind added: “I think it’s important that relatives have access to the war graves of those who have died and it should be granted properly out of respect.

“I believe there will be access to the site on November 3 when there’ll be a service, and similarly on November 11.

“However there’s a lot of people in Whalley who are concerned about this.”

Buildings of Remembrance International Ltd (BORI) were contacted about the issue but neglected to comment.