WORK to exhume graves in a Bournemouth churchyard is back on course after a two year delay.

Chester Pearce Funeral Service has been commissioned to remove several bodies from the disused cemetery at the former Pokesdown and Boscombe United Reformed Church, a Grade II listed building in Southbourne Road which has been converted into flats.

It is seeking planning permission to maintain a hoarding at the site so work can begin, once drug paraphernalia has been safely removed.

The application states: "The hoarding is in place to protect the site from public entry during exhumation works.

"The exhumation works have not yet begun as we are still in the preparation/planning stage.

"The site needs to be cleared out of needles and other mess that has been left by local drug users.

"When works commence, the memorials and steps will be reinstated six months from the end of the dig, but this must be subject to a site visit to ensure the ground is ready to take said memorials."

Headstones and memorials will be temporarily stored off site while work is under way.

Planning permission was granted last year for the exhumation following an application from Jaydem Homes.

The council said the process would involve "digging up one grave at a time, by hand, before refilling it with earth and moving onto the next one".

Officers said the exhumation "means it could be possible to formally identify/record some of the buried remains".

Part of the site is expected to be developed.

Back in 2016 a group called PLP commissioned Tapper Funeral Service to carry out the exhumation, with plans to move the remains to Woodland Burial Ground.

Then, Tapper managing director Stephen Tapper said the land was likely to be used for development.

"Most of what we do is burying and cremating people but from time to time we are asked to do the opposite," he said.

He said the exhumation of cemeteries is rare in the Bournemouth area but "quite common" in more crowded places such as London.