A NEW £1 million-plus privately-operated cemetery has opened near Keighley Tarn.

Those behind the scheme – the first of its kind in the Bradford district for over a century – say the project is already providing a potential model for similar initiatives nationally.

When plans to turn the old Braithwaite Edge quarry site into a burial ground – accommodating up to 2,000 graves – were first put forward by Keighley Community Cemetery, there was fierce opposition from some residents.

Concerns were voiced that water courses could be contaminated and there were fears over increased traffic levels.

But there was also strong support for the scheme and the plans were given the go-ahead by Bradford Council's regulatory and appeals committee in 2015, with councillors voting six-to-one in favour.

Now the first interment has taken place at the Black Hill Lane cemetery, known as Yorkshire Gardens of Peace.

The ashes of Margaret Marshall, who died just after Christmas, have been buried there.

"It's a lovely spot," said her daughter, Christine Thackray.

"She has a view across to Long Lee, where she lived.

"I'd first become aware of the site when myself and my husband had gone up to the tarn and he mentioned it was going to be a cemetery. I said I'd like to go there when the time comes!

"It's a beautiful site and I'm delighted that it's my mother's final resting place."

Ian Hayfield, of Hayfield Robinson property consultants, said it had been a long – and sometimes challenging – journey for the project to reach fruition.

However he felt the cemetery was something the town and all those involved could be proud of.

"I chair Keighley Towns Fund and am always keen to promote the positives in our town – and this scheme is one of them," he said.

"It is a huge achievement.

"The site had been disused and derelict for some time but through hard work, public engagement and co-operation we now have a cemetery to be proud of.

"I’ve known the site for over 25 years and I am sure the previous owners would be extremely pleased to see what has been achieved.

"It is the first privately-developed/owned cemetery in the Bradford district for over 100 years – what an achievement!

"Local contractors were used to build the cemetery, so during the work tens of thousands of pounds were put back into the local economy.

"Plus, all the materials – including reclaimed stone – were sourced locally."

Work included a major upgrade of the drainage infrastructure.

The site includes lighting, CCTV and a secure car park.

Mr Hayfield said the owners were inspired to go-ahead with the scheme because they felt the existing offering in the district was "outdated" and lacked investment.

"There was a genuine feeling that Keighley and the proud people that live there deserved better," he said.

"It was clear through consultation with the community that there was a desire to have access to a local, modern, purpose-built state-of-the-art facility.

"More than a million pounds has been invested and we are delighted with the result.

"Visually the site is much better than what existed previously and approaches have already been made by organisations in other parts of the country seeking advice and information about the scheme and the journey to this point."

He added: "I attended the first burial and yes it was sad and emotional, but there was also a sense of pride – the history books will show when the first burial took place and who was buried there. It wasn't a 'sir' or a 'dame' or a wealthy landowner, but a lady from Keighley whose family wanted something better than the existing cemeteries."