CLAIMS gravestones were being ripped out and replaced with a car park have been denied by the local vicar.

Concerned residents who spotted diggers in the graveyard at St Catherine's Church, Ventnor, raised concerns the graves were being removed to make way for more parking spaces.

However, Canon Hugh Wright said the project — which has been in the works for the past ten years —  was to create a contemplative garden, and even up the sloping path.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Canon Wright said: "We are not ripping up the stones for more parking space.

"We are removing some of the gravestones and placing them elsewhere in the graveyard, but none of the graves themselves will be moved."

Although the car park will be reconfigured, he said no more spaces will be added.

Isle of Wight County Press:

No-one has been buried in the churchyard for more than 120 years, and many of the older stones were illegible and falling apart, added Canon Wright.

The contemplative garden will provide a peaceful place for visitors to the churchyard.

Canon Wright said he hoped the outside appearance of the church would reflect the renovation work carried out inside the building, where the fixed pews have been removed to provide an open space.

Isle of Wight County Press:

During a consultation process, Canon Wright met with residents who were unhappy with the plans to address their concerns.

"Everything has gone through the church's official planning process," he said.

Isle of Wight County Press: