A HUGE expansion is planned for Burnley Cemetery after it was revealed burial space is set to run out within a decade.

An extra 14 acres of farmland, to the east of the Rossendale Road, has been earmarked for the graveyard extension.

Under a Freedom of Information Act request it has emerged that are currently just over 2,000 plots left at Burnley and Padiham’s cemeteries.

And in recent years there have been up to 220 interments annually, across the borough’s two burial grounds.

A Burnley Council spokesman said: “The council is currently working on plans to extend the existing Burnley Cemetery onto adjacent farmland which belongs to the council and was purchased in the 1950s for this purpose.

“The land is currently used for agriculture and is 5.76 hectares (14.23 acres) in size, and is located across Cemetery Lane from the present cemetery.”

Planning permission will need to be granted before the scheme, which would see the cemetery expand from its current 17.3 hectares, goes ahead.

Similar plans were unveiled earlier this year to increase the size of Blackburn’s Pleasington Cemetery.

The additional four hectares pencilled in there would accommodate 12,000 burials over the next 30 years.

The Burnley move is being made despite the increasing popularity of cremations across the borough.

Last year, from January to December, there were 208 burials and 1,425 cremations, which are conducted just a stone’s throw from the Rossendale Road site.

In the 12 months previous to that, there were 221 burials and 1,559 cremations for the borough. An investment of around £800,000 will be made in updating the crematorium burners this year.

Coun Margaret Lishman, deputy council leader, said it was important to plan for the future.

She said: “The trend is towards cremations and we have spent quite a lot of money updating our cremators up to current standards.

“But while the majority of people prefer cremation we have the provision for burials if people wish to choose that option.

“There are also a number of other church and other burial grounds still in use in the borough, apart from the cemetery, such as the graveyard at Haggate.”

The Rossendale Road cemetery dates back to June 1856 and is the final resting place for dozens of distinguished Burnley people.

There are an estimated 57,000 graves.

The chapel, recently modernised, dates back to 1923 and is multi-denominational.

Last April a project was completed by borough council staff to transcribe the 150,000 entries in the cemetery’s burial registers into a computer archive.

The last extension to the cemetery was undertaken at the start of the 20th century and there are now specialised areas for Muslim and Roman Catholic burials, alongside ash plots and a section for the Sisters of Mercy nuns.