SCOTS residents have asked their council to dig up 1,000 graves – so they can build a car park.
A local group in Perth and Kinross have called for a historic graveyard to be made “more useful” by suggesting it be made into parking facilities.
It is estimated that up to 1,000 bodies may lie in the churchyard at St Michael’s Old Parish Church in Crieff – some dating back to the year 1199.
The site has even yielded forty Robert The Bruce coins, which were found in a niche in the old church wall.
Crieff and Upper Strathearn Partnership, made of various local organisations, has prepared a report that claims the church and grounds are in a “terrible condition” and are “heavily littered with dog excrement”.
It suggests that the Category B site could be turned into “much-needed” car parking for the centre of town, or even a bus exchange.
If an alternative use for the site was agreed, all graves would have to be excavated, re-interred and reconsecrated.
John Champion, author of the report, said: “The churchyard is heavily littered with dog excrement. Loose masonry hidden in the undergrowth also presents a trip hazard in some areas.
“The building itself has been subjected to damage by way of windows being smashed and graffiti being applied.
“The land could be put to any number of uses. One, obvious option could be to provide much-needed additional car parking in the very centre of town.
“Another could be to provide the town centre with its own dedicated bus exchange.
“In any event an appropriate and useful function could be found for what must be a fairly valuable site in the town centre.”
The suggestion has sparked an angry response from local residents.
Local historian Colin Mayall said: “What is being suggested is total and utter sacrilege. The site is an important religious centre in the town and it makes it unique.
“One thing that is totally precluded is the suggestion that it be turned into a car park. Our fellow citizens buried here deserve to be left in peace and any suggestion to the contrary must be opposed as vehemently as possible.”
Craig Finlay of Crieff Community Council was also appalled by the idea.
He said: “It is worrying that the historic importance of this site, as well as the moral implications of disturbing the graves of 1,000 bodies, could be overlooked in favour of infrastructure.
“It is my hope that a proper consultation period can be followed by a compromise that can suit the interests of everyone.”
St Michael’s former Parish Church was completed in 1827 but only served as a church for 50 years before another was built in a different part of town.
The area has been used as a church site since 1199, however, giving rise to speculation that there might be over 1,000 graves in the area.
Mr Finlay said the building is in a poor state, having been broken into, with windows smashed and evidence of drug-taking lying around.
In the short term, he said he is hopeful the situation would be improved with the help of police who have secured the services of Perth and Kinross Unpaid Work Team to tidy up the site.
A spokeswoman for Perth and Kinross Council said: “We have offered CUSP advice on planning, development and funding issues to consider if the community decides it wishes to proceed with potentially reusing the building or site of St Michael’s Church in Crieff.
“No decision about the site has been made yet.”
A recent poll carried out for the National Churches Trust found that 79% of British people think that churches and chapels are an important part of the UK’s heritage and history. Almost half of those surveyed had visited a church or chapel over the past year.