I was more than a little surprised a couple of weeks ago when I read the following in a piece on the “Wigan Today” website:
A shortage of graves has prompted a renewed campaign for a new cemetery in West Lancashire.
Rosie Cooper wants a new public facility to be opened at Pippin Street in Skelmersdale so that families no longer have to bear the extra costs of burying a loved one.
All very good… However, I’m pretty certain that there isn’t a Pippin Street in Skelmersdale, and that this refers to the proposed Cemetery to be built by Pippin Street, Burscough. I dismissed the story as a schoolboy journalist error by someone who didn’t know the West Lancs area and forgot about it until I saw this on Rosie’s own website:
The general election next year is going to be difficult for us, particularly in West Lancs where the Tories have a strong hold on all wards in the Constituency outside of the Skelmersdale area (with the proud exception of Bickerstaffe). The bulk of Labour voters live in Skelmersdale and we need to be seen to be delivering – particularly if the town centre plans are scuppered by the new Everton/Tesco development in Knowsley (rumoured to have been agreed by the secretary of state).
It is well known locally that Skelmersdale has run out of burial space and families are forced to have their loved ones buried in neighbouring towns and boroughs.
Rosie has campaigned hard for a cemetery in Skelmersdale since elected in 2005 and last year a planning application was passed for a cemetery in Pippin Street, Burscough, about seven miles (as the crow flies) away from Moorside, Skem – my old patch. To give Rosie credit, she has since campaigned for a new bus route so that families in Skem can visit their loved ones in the proposed Pippin Street cemetery.
However, the newspaper article and website suggest that the local campaigning brains trust has had a stroke (of genius). By simply extending the boundaries of Skelmersdale to take in Pippin Street we can claim to have delivered a new Skelmersdale Cemetery without all the bother of finding a suitable site near the (old) town centre.
View Skem + Cemetery in a larger map
And why should it stop there? We could deliver the long promised hospital by extending the town’s boundaries down Wigan Road (to be fair, it’s a childrens A&E, but it’s a start):
View Skem + hospital in a larger map
In fact, given that on average, someone living in Parbold will live seven to eight years long than someone living in Skelmersdale, we could increase the average life expectancy in Skelmersdale by simply making the town bigger and extending the boundaries out towards Parbold:
View Skem + hospital + parbold in a larger map
It seems to me that this is an campaigning masterstroke. Taking it to the logical conclusion (well one of many) we could take the proposed Skelmersdale cemetery as the new geographical centre and project out seven miles in all directions – creating a new Greater Skelmersdale (Skelmershire?) Delivering for Skem a world-class University at Edge Hill, a beach at what was once Southport, both a childrens and adult A&E, several railway stations and countless other benefits.
View Skelmershire in a larger map
The electoral landscape would also be transformed – pushing the “out of Skem” areas deep into South Ribble and Sefton, and making the whole of what was West Lancs rock-solid Labour areas. Virtually guaranteed to return a Labour MP at the next General Election.
So there you have it. Quite simple really.