The Ribble Valley Borough Council (RVBC)
The former Calderstones Hospital Cemetery is located within the administrative area of the Ribble Valley Borough Council.
Although the Council apparently has no records relating to the sale of the cemetery in October 2000, we believe that officers or politicians representing the Authority, and possibly the Lancashire County Council were directly involved in the sale arrangements which led to both the Brockhall and Calderstones Hospital Cemeteries being sold in October 2000. (See Sale Pack section, and in particular, the May 2019 letter from Mr Stephen Hammond MP, the then Minister of State for Health)
Tony Walsh who purchased the Cemetery in 2000 said that he had no agreement or understanding with the Council. On the contrary, he complained that he had quickly found himself in a dispute with the Council over what he believed were the excessive rate demands for the Cemetery, which he had received. Unfortunately, it has not yet been possible to find anyone within the Council who might be able to clarify the suggestion of direct involvement, or Tony Walsh's complaints about the excessive rates demand.
In July 2002, the then owner, Colin Arkwright, who is believed to be Tony Walsh's brother-in-law, was seeking to promote his new business venture of a private cemetery. He received publicity and his "new" business venture was formally opened on 2nd August 2002, by Joyce Holgate, a local Whalley councillor, who was Mayor of Ribble Valley Borough Council at the time.
It seems likely that several owners and prospective owners of the Cemetery would have been considering potential development opportunities, from as early as 2001, but though they almost certainly occurred, there appears to be no official record of any involvement or discussions between the Planning Department and the various owners and potential owners of the Cemetery, up until late 2008.
We now know that there were multiple transfers of ownership involving property and development companies between 2002 and 2009. (See Owners section) In 2007 there is further publicity linking the new "mystery owner" to the possibility of opening a pets cemetery. As this publicity coincided with a sale between property developers, the veracity of the newspaper article remains questionable, but we have found no evidence of any planning application being submitted around this time
From 2008/9, the Council is regularly involved in planning applications and issues relating to the Cemetery
Plans for the Cemetery
We know from the available records that the following list of plans and variations were submitted to Ribble Valley Borough Council, but it seems certain that this is not a comprehensive list, and there may have been other proposals and plans which were not publicly available at the time of this research. Certainly the Cemetery and its planning history seems well known to the officials from the Planning Department, some of whom, have been in post for several years.
The following submissions can all be traced and checked via the Council's web-site.
Date Reference Applicant Company
29.09.2008 3/2008/0837 Agent Broxburn Ltd
15.09.2011 3/2011/0746 Agent Remembrance Place 2000 Ltd
29.05.2014 3/2014/0497 Agent Buildings of Remembrance (****)
23.07.2014 3/2014/0676 Agent Buildings of Remembrance (*****)
08.01.2015 3/2015/0024 Agent The Shrine
26.01.2017 3/2017/0095 S Gohil Buildings of Remembrance International Ltd (*****)
26.01.2017 3/2017/0067 S Gohil Buildings of Remembrance International Ltd (*****)
19.04.2018 3/2018/0323 A Dunn All Faiths Remembrance Parks Ltd
09.07.2018 3/2018/0640 S Gohil Buildings of Remembrance International Ltd
27.09.2018 3/2018/0869 S Gohil Buildings of Remembrance International Ltd
14.12.2018 3/2018/1145 D Daniels Ribble Valley Remembrance Parks (!!!!)
02.01.2019 3/2019/0004 S Gohil Ribble Valley Remembrance Parks (!!!!)
(****) See explanatory notes in Owners section
In August 2018, December 2018 and March 2019 the Friends submitted detailed and evidence-based objections to the Developer's plans as attached. However, the Council has been consistent since 2008 in maintaining that it does NOT regard the presence of bodies, their history, or location within the Cemetery as being "material considerations" when making planning decisions. We have tried to persuade Council officials to take a different view but without success. Consequently, the Council's interpretation of material consideration, means that the bulk of the evidence which the Friends have submitted is simply excluded as not being relevant and is therefore not made available to either the politicians making the decision, or to the public. Having failed to persuade the Council to change its interpretation and exhausted the local complaints procedure, the Friends referred the matter to the Ombudsman on the 11th November 2019.
The Ombudsman's response is attached.
The OMBUDSMAN'S REPORT
The Friends wrote to the Ombudsman to challenge the RVBC view that the presence of the 1172 bodies in the cemetery, their location or history were not "material considerations" under planning regulations and could not therefore be considered as being relevant when considering planning applications or variations. In fairness to the Council, this has been its consistent position since the first recorded planning application in 2008..
The Ombudsman's report and decision- Page 2
The Friends Objection
To the Planning Application