Wigan is the dead centre

Gidlow Cemetery

Gidlow Cemetery

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THE dead of neighbouring communities are being buried in Wigan because there’s no grave space nearer home.

Some Skelmersdale families are being forced to abandon West Lancs and choose Wigan as the final resting place for loved ones, claims a neighbouring MP, because their own graveyards are now full.

Rosie Cooper spoke out in Parliament this week about the continued lack of burial provision there, claiming the lack of plots is forcing families in her constituency to have to “pay a death tax” to be buried in neighbouring areas, including Wigan borough.

Speaking in the Commons in a debate on burial and the treatment of death, Ms Cooper claimed that West Lancs families were continuing to suffer because of a lack of leadership from district councillors in finding a solution.

Planning permission for a new cemetery and crematorium in Burscough was granted a full 13 years ago but building had still not started.

With no burial plots available, especially in the most populated town, Skelmersdale, families are being forced to look to Wigan, St Helens, Sefton or Liverpool for their late loved ones.

Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust, which manages Wigan’s nine cemeteries, revealed that of the almost 3,000 people who died in Wigan over the last 12 months, almost a quarter were buried with the remainder cremated.

A spokesman said: “Three of these cemeteries are closed to new burials but available for the reopening of family graves (where space allows) for additional burials and six cemeteries are available for new and re-opened graves.

“Families can still choose a traditional burial in Wigan, however, an increasing number are choosing from a greater choice of interment and memorialisation for cremated remains, which also utilises the remaining space more effectively. There are currently no restrictions on who can be buried or additional charges for non-residents in Wigan cemeteries managed by WLCT.”

Ms Cooper said after the debate: “For several years I have been campaigning now for the provision of extra burial space to bring an end to this outrageous and unnecessary situation of families looking to neighbouring areas for burial plots.

“Losing a loved one is a difficult enough time for people but it is being made even harder for West Lancashire residents facing the choice of which neighbouring area in which to bury their loved one, the cost of the death tax from this decision, then having to travel to visit the burial plot often with our dreadful transport links.”

A spokesman for West Lancs District Council said that it had recently renewed planning permission for a private development of a cemetery and crematorium on land.

But he added: “The council does not have a statutory duty to provide a new cemetery or to reimburse any additional cost that may have been incurred by residents using a cemetery in a neighbouring district.”