VILLAGERS in Alveston have raised fears over the proposed expansion of a cemetery, which could see it more than double in size.

Memorial Woodlands has submitted an application to extend its funeral grounds, which currently cover around 11.5 hectares of land over two parishes, Tytherington and Alveston, by an extra 20.2 hectares. This means the cemetery would grow by nearly 63 per cent.

But Earthcott Road residents and members of action group Save Alveston's Beautiful Rural Environment (SABRE) are concerned the plans would lead to a major increase in traffic on already busy country lanes.

Campaigners told the Gazette they questioned the need to expand when the cemetery was nowhere near reaching full capacity.

A SABRE spokesman said: "The problem is we are surrounded by country lanes, and with the development the amount of traffic would be unbelievable. They are having one funeral a day at the moment but if they expand it could go to two, three or eight a day.

"Everybody is very concerned about the large impact it would have on the surrounding area."

A Quiet Lanes scheme is already in the pipeline for the roads leading up to Itchington, including Earthcott Road, to make the area safer through traffic calming measures. This is proof, SABRE members said, that traffic is already a huge concern near the cemetery.

Memorial Woodlands managing director Wayne Armstrong dismissed claims that the volume of traffic would increase dramatically.

He said: "The chapel and reception rooms are not used for more than one funeral a day. At this point in time this is not going to change. We don’t expect any change in the amount of traffic that we have."

He added that the expansion was only the next phase of a long-term project - to eventually turn the grounds into sacred woodlands.

He said: "This application will secure the future of the Memorial Woodlands. We want planning permission to get the site as we want to see it in 200 years. What we would like to do is design the space as a whole."

Owner Chris Baker added: "SABRE rattling to stop creation of hundred acre community wood in Forest of Avon. The woodland may take a hundred years to create, this planning application ensures that it will happen."