Horton cemetery was sold off by the Regional Health Authority to Michael Heighes, director of private property development company Marque Securities in 1983, with no conditions placed on its maintenance.
As a property developer, Mr. Heighes has shown no interest in maintaining the land as a cemetery. Proposals to use it as a market garden or a car park came to nothing.
For his part Mr Heighes is still hoping to get permission one day to concrete over the graves and use the site for leisure development “suitable to that area”. At one time he asked if he would need special permission to turn the land into a pet cemetery.
In another attempt, Mr Heighes offered the council “a useful chunk” of the cemetery where they could put a memorial, but in return wanted the go-ahead for developing the rest of the site. The council refused.
Since then it has fallen into disrepair with rubbish strewn throughout the area among trees and dense undergrowth. In 2004 an elderly dog walker came across part of a spine on the footpath and then discovered more grisly remains nearby. In 2012 human remains surfaced at the site, and a child reportedly took human bones home.
Marques Securities spokesman, John Hines, commented; “…there were no conditions imposed on the sale to do anything at all with the cemetery so it is in the same condition as we can see today.”
The vision of Friends of Horton Cemetery is for the 5 acre site to be transformed into a public garden-arboretum-nature reserve, for calm walks, meditation and reading, with a suitable memorial to all those buried there.