BUNHILL : Grave times are looming down on the farm

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The Independent Online
TORIES facing defeat at the next election can find some consolation in the story of a 38-year-old farmer, Robert Goodwill, an unsuccessful candiate at the '92 general election and last year's Euro-election. His novel notion is to exploit "set aside" landreleased through the latest Euro-absurdity as, wait for it, a private cemetery on his North Yorkshire farm.

Goodwill now has planning permission for 1,750 plots. He says that there is a massive national shortage of cemetery space and is convinced that a lot of people from York, Hull, Leeds and Teesside - as well as Yorkshire expats everywhere - will want to beburied there.

As a result, what he calls "the ultimate set-aside" could be a Nice Little Earner, since he's offering four different types of service: full traditional burial (£650), woodland burial, where trees are planted after burial (£450), burial of ashes (£150), and scattering of ashes (£50). Goodwill has designated three acres of land at his 260-acre Southwood Farm for the cemetery, which he intends to open in the spring and call Mowthorpe Independent Garden of Rest.

But, or rather buts. First, the proposed cemetery is in an area of outstanding natural beauty. Second, the community in Terrington, a pretty commuter village, is up in arms. Indeed, the Terrington parish council, of which he is a member, has condemned the scheme, although it was approved by Ryedale District Council's northern area planning committee last month. This was mainly because there were no real grounds for refusal - although the protesters claim that the application was mishandled by the planning committee.

Peter Barber, one of the leaders of the protesters, added: "Terrington's population is only 350 and the existing parish cemetery will last for another 60 years. There is simply no local need for a new cemetery." But perhaps the basic underlying fear was best expressed by another protester afraid that Terrington will become known as "the village of the dead".