THE development of a crematorium on the graveyard of a former mental institution has been halted by The Bishop of Blackburn.

The Rt Rev Julian Henderson has rejected an application to de-consecrate the cemetery at Calderstones Hospital necessary to allow building work to continue.

Buildings of Remembrance International Ltd had started work on the crematorium and funeral chapel scheme before it became clear last year the Bishop’s permission was required to build on the sacred land.

After discussions with the Archdeacon of Blackburn The Venerable Mark Ireland, an application was submitted for de-consecration so work on the proposed Ribble Valley Remembrance Park in Mitton Road, Whalley could continue.

Local residents concerned about the 1,100 patients buried in the graveyard opposed the scheme.

The Friends of Calderstones Cemetery submitted a formal objection to the proposed de-consecration of the two acres of land to the Bishop.

Although the proposal has permission dating back to January 2009, the graveyard cannot be built on without the Rt Rev Henderson removing its sacred status.

He has now decided: “I must reject the application. The fact that I have done so now does not prevent a further application being made in the future with new evidence.”

Rt Rev. Henderson said: “This matter has been considered carefully at every stage of the process.

“Having looked carefully at the current evidence presented to me, I state in my determination I am not convinced enough of the site is clear of human remains.

“That being the case therefore, I will not allow the building work to proceed.”

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Mel Diack, spokesman for the friends group said: “We are very pleased that the Bishop has decided to keep the consecration and protected this sacred ground.

“This is the right decision and reflects well on the Church of England. I think this graveyard is the wrong location for a crematorium.”

In a letter to the Ven Ireland, the Rt Rev Henderson says: “I am not satisfied that there is sufficient certainty as to the location of burials and interred ashes.”

The Lancashire Telegraph was unable to contact Buildings of Remembrance International Ltd or its associated company All Faiths Remembrance Parks Ltd for comment.