Campaign group set up as deadline nears for decision on Sheffield General Cemetery car park plans
People living near Sheffield General Cemetery have set up their own campaign group as a row over improvement works and a possible car park at the site continues.
A group of residents have formed the Save Our Green Open Spaces Sheffield (SOGOSS) group in an attempt to raise awareness of Sheffield Council's plans to build a car park in the cemetery's grounds, carry out conservation works on listed walls and monuments, landscape improvements, new signage and lighting.
But the council said the works would lead to the site being removed from Historic England's 'Heritage At Risk' register and the lack of car parking was restricting easy access to the site for all.
Eileen Evans, of Cemetery Road, who helped set up SOGOSS, said: "As a resident myself I was unaware of the full impact of this planning application might be.
"I was walking through the cemetery and I was approached by someone who said this was going on. The group's main objection is the car parking and there was a very small reference to the possibility of building a cafe - it's not part of the planning application but it's mentioned in the plans."
Ms Evans said the group had launched a petition against the application, which has been signed by more than 4,000 signatures.
She said: "I would describe the cemetery as an open space - it's not a park. It's got some nice pathways around it but there are hardcore and very natural and in keeping with the rest of the park.
"They opened the renovated chapel in 2016, which is very beautiful and been done very well. We know the council and Sheffield General Cemetery Trust want to increase the usage of that building and there are no objections to that but we believe the car park is in opposition to certain council policies around open air and open spaces."
Ms Evans said parking could be provided outside of the cemetery site on Cemetery Road and Stalker Lees Road.
"Having a car park on site would eat into the cemetery by at least a quarter and that would have a big impact both aesthetically and on people's enjoyment of the green space," she added.
"The Botanical Gardens doesn't have a car park and people can cope up there and it's much busier."
Ms Evans said the group was also concerned that no impact study had been completed on how a car park and its lighting would affect bats and other wildlife.
She added there were also concerns that approving the car park plans in the cemetery would set a 'precedent' for future planning applications.
In documents submitted with the application, Sheffield Council said the proposals were in line with the 'project vision' of the cemetery' - a magical, safe and inspiring space where anyone can explore and connect with nature, discover local stories and architecture and enjoy the unusual and unexpected’.
Coun Mary Lea, cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure, said: "The General Cemetery is a nationally important site and is unfortunately on the Historic England at risk register. This planning application is for a project that would reverse this by protecting the important heritage of the site, being sensitive to the natural environment, whilst adding value to the local community.
“We have carried out extensive consultation which has been ongoing since 2015. Feedback has been generally positive and where concerns have been raised we have taken them seriously. We have also extended the period for consultation on the application following requests from the public to ensure everyone could have a say.
“We welcome feedback from everyone with an interest in this and want to work with site users and the local community to deliver a project of benefit to all.”
For more information or to sign the petition visit http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/mgepetitionlistdisplay.aspx?bcr=1
A decision on the application is due by Tuesday, May 1.