RFBI forced to revise plans for NSW Mid North Coast site after historic graveyard discovered

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The Royal Freemasons’ Benevolent Institution has overhauled plans for an aged care and retirement living development at Bellingen after the discovery of a historical graveyard.

The RFBI purchased the Bellingen property, formerly a bowls club (pictured above), in 2013 with an eye toward developing a one-level 60-bed aged care facility.

However, the build was halted in 2015 after the Old Bellingen Cemetery (pictured below) was rediscovered.

The cemetery was active from 1873 until its closure in 1903 and there was the possibility that unmarked graves existed on the site.

Between those dates, the town recorded 104 deaths but only 66 internments were registered at the site and in the years after its closure, several unrecorded exhumations occurred.

RFBI’s Chief Marketing Officer, Alana Parker said an archaeological assessment of the area had concluded 20 community-style houses could be built without disturbing the possibly unmarked graves, ABC News reported.

It’s now hoped construction can begin sometime in 2021, after community consultation has been completed.

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