Watch: Training gravediggers accidentally dig up protected beauty spot
A council has apologised after trainee gravediggers infuriated locals by digging up a protected beauty spot by mistake.
Mendip District Council said it had asked workers to use part of Easthill Cemetery in Frome, Somerset, for training.
But instead they dug up part of Easthill Field – which sits adjacent to the cemetery and is an area which the authority has agreed not to build on.
A local group said the field was treasured in the town for its "irreplaceable ecological value".
Mark Player, a member of the Friends of Easthill Facebook group, told the BBC he found the gravediggers practising on the site on 28 January.
He said the field was "protected and enhanced for its irreplaceable ecological value" to Frome and the group had been left "very upset" by the damage.
"We feel passionately about this field because it's not just a bit of agricultural land that has been intensively farmed – it hasn't been touched by human development at all," he said.
"When we asked, we were told that they couldn't dig on plots.”
The authority agreed to pause a plan to build 77 houses on the site in November.
Last month council leader Ros Wyke said a formal public meeting would be held before its fate was decided, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).
Nicola Player, another member of the Friends of Easthill Field, posted images of the damage caused to the site on the group's official Facebook page on Thursday.
She wrote alongside: “Today, we have evidence of the ignorance and lack of respect that exists in Mendip District Council for wildlife habitats in general and Easthill in particular.
“Someone in the Council said that a bit of Easthill field could be used for a training course for grave diggers. Why couldn't they use land within the existing cemetery boundaries?”
The group’s founder Bharati Pardhy said: “It has a blanket tree preservation order on all the trees and copses over the site, it’s five and a half acres.
“It’s never been dug, or fertilised, it’s pristine land, it’s as precious and rare as rainforest and full of wildlife, all kinds of birds and reptiles and creatures, it is stunning.”
A Mendip District Council spokesperson said the contractors had been asked to dig within the boundaries of Easthill Cemetery as burial services were taking place at other sites.
They said the instruction was "misunderstood" but that the council was "satisfied this was simply a communication error with no mal-intent, albeit with significant consequences".
A spokesman said: "As soon as we were made aware of the miscommunication, we worked quickly to make safe the space, remove the team, and ensured the second days training was completed at a different location within the cemetery boundary.
"The space has since been secured and communications have been issued to those who contacted us about the matter."
The space has since been made safe and a second day's training was held within the cemetery.
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