VILLAGERS fighting controversial plans for a crematorium were out in force yesterday (Wednesday) after a farmer started ploughing up land earmarked for the site.
Around 30 people rushed to Moor Lane, in Willoughby, to halt the work being done.
Aamer Waheed, who owns the land, is hoping to turn the field into a 22,000-plot cemetery and crematorium.
He doesn’t currently have planning permission to build on the land and the group Villages Against Cemetery and Crematorium (VACC) was set up in October 2010 to fight the plans.
Villager Richard Jackson said: “We didn’t know anything like this was planned.
“We’ve been told this field could be of national importance and it would be a real tragedy for it to be destroyed.
“At this stage it’s hopefully possible to restore it but it will take a long time to get it back to what it was after seeing the amount of damage that’s been done.”
Parish councillor Ben Hallam added: “A farmer rang me and said ploughing had begun and he asked if we could come down.
“It’s quite upsetting for us that this has happened.
“The land is ancient ridge and furrow and it’s currently going through the Natural England process to be designated as Grade I.”
Villager Bob Hughes said: “It’s not just the ridge and furrow, there might be ancient archeology under it and ploughing it like this might destroy any treasure that’s under there.
“If the crematorium plans went ahead there could be 20 funerals a day here and the village doesn’t have the capacity for that.”
An English Heritage spokesperson said: “We are treating this case with the highest priority but there is no protection for a site while a decision is being made as to whether it should be designated.”
Landowner Mr Waheed was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.