CAMPAIGNERS are delighted after plans to hold weddings and parties next to Basildon cemetery were thrown out.

Basildon Council has refused proposals to transform the Old Rectory, in Church Road, Bowers Gifford, into an entertainment venue because of its green belt location.

Mourners, residents and councillors battled to stop the “insensitive” change of use from an architect’s office because of concerns about noise and traffic.

They thought they had lost their fight last month after the council granted the site’s new Barking-based owners JA Phillips Holdings an alcohol and entertainment licence, but the plans have been rejected.

If the planning application had gone through it would have meant events could take place from 5.30pm until midnight on Saturday and Sunday and music could be played inside from 9amuntil 7pm in the week and 9am until midnight on weekends.

Alan Jose, manager of Basildon Cemetery and Crematorium, said: “We are absolutely delighted. It shows that when the public are against something that could become a problem, the council does listen.

“We care about those who have been bereaved and had real concerns about the insensitivity of the plans.

“We wouldn’t want to see the Old Rectory fall into a state of disrepair, but think it would be suitable as a residential property or offices, which it has been used as successfully for the past 15 years.”

Wheelchair-user Steve Bates, 46, bought his house next door to the Old Rectory 12 years ago because of its peaceful setting.

He said: “As it stands, we are very pleased it has been refused and I just hope that nothing changes.

“It looked like it was going to get through after the licensing application was granted.”

Aiden McGurran, Labour councillor for Pitsea south east, was inundated with calls and e-mails from concerned residents and mourners.

He said: “There will be a lot of relieved people. There were a lot of concerns. Because of the location, it could have been very insensitive.”

Council planning officer David Gill said: “While the proposal would bring back into use the currently vacant former rectory from offices into an entertainment venue, it would lead to a significant increase in noise and disturbance in this green belt location, as well as lacking sufficient on-site parking provision."