Where can we bury Whitby’s dead?

Whitby's cemetery is almost at capacity
Whitby's cemetery is almost at capacity

Time is running out to find extra space to bury Whitby’s dead – and your suggestions on a solution to the problem are welcome, says local councillor Joe Plant.

It is feared that within a year, Whitby Cemetery off Helredale Lane will be full, and borough council bosses have been criticised for failing to provide the town with a new graveyard.

Cllr Plant, who serves both the borough council and North Yorkshire County Council, assured concerned residents that while the local authority has made solving the problem a top priority, anyone with ideas that they think could help is welcome to get in touch.

“As a council, we are aware of how urgently we need to address the situation with the cemetery, however local knowledge could well be vital to the solution. All ideas are welcome,” he told the Whitby Gazette.

“This is without doubt a sensitive issue and the most important thing is that we get it sorted as soon as possible. “We can’t find ourselves in a position where local families are in turmoil because there is nowhere in Whitby to bury our dead.”

Cllr Plant’s comments come after the borough council said that it was still at the “ideas stage” of working out a solution.

A spokesperson continued: “We have been looking at a number of locations in Whitby, one of which is land near the Donkey Field.

“However, we are still at the ideas stage and any site we consider would have to be put through numerous tests before we could determine the most suitable location for a new cemetery.

“Any recommended site would also be subject to our formal council reporting process and planning procedures.”

The borough council have come up with two alternative sites, but both of them, including the Donkey Field, have the same drainage problems which have plagued St Mary’s Churchyard - the place where Whitby’s dead were buried until 1860.

“There are number of springs in the area and we had serious landslips two years ago,” said Town councillor Amanda Smith.

“We have a legal requirement to set aside land but space is very tight and we don’t want the problems like we had with the bones.”

Two years ago, devastating landslips tore open dozens of ancient plots in the old churchyard – showering horrified residents with bones.

And now locals are scouring outlying village churchyards for empty corners to prevent the remains of loved ones suffering the same fate.

Funeral directors alarmed by the plodding pace are urging the council to get a move on.

One said: “There is going to be hell on if they can’t get it right and this is our livelihood.

“We just can’t get a straight answer where the new cemetery is going to be.

“We said right off Donkey’s Field would be a daft place to go.

“People cannot pre-purchase plots any more. They need all the spaces for the dying.

“People will just have to go for more cremations and bury the ashes in the plots.”

The fact that the borough council is still yet to find a solution to the problem has left many locals angry.

Retiring Whitby Rector Revd Canon David Smith said: “They have known about it for a few years but nothing has been done.

“Another year or so and that will be it. There is not much space left now.

“They have to do something in the next year or at least earmark somewhere where it is going to go.

“It is like everything else - things just get left until it is too late.”

John Freeman, Chairman of Whitby Tourism Association, added: “There are bodies right up against the railings in the existing cemetery at the moment so clearly we can’t go on this way for much longer.”