A £3m Lotto grant has been given to Sheffield’s General Cemetery following a bid from council chiefs - but heritage groups and volunteers have spoken out against the move.
The council says that the cash will complete major restoration work at the Sharrow site - conserving heritage and improving facilities and access.
But objectors say they are opposed to disabled parking spaces being created in the grounds, and that the cash is a smokescreen as it will not help with ongoing funding problems for the cemetery.
Joy Bullivant, from Save Our Open Green Spaces, said: “I should be happy about the news but I’m not because of the plans they have in mind that are being funded.
“The plans for the new car park are going to block disabled access - it’s supposed to be improving disabled access but it won’t.
“There’s been no consultation and it’s being steamrollered through against the wishes of the local heritage community. I was totally ignored, as were a lot of disabled people.”
“I really like the General Cemetery but this is a really bad idea. It’s going to ruin the cemetery. I’d actually reached the stage where I hoped the council wouldn’t get the money as I’m very worried about this.”
Meanwhile, cemetery volunteer Frank Cooper said: “I’m most worried that people will think that the General Cemetery is no longer in financial trouble because it’s been awarded this money.
“I just wish that the council hadn’t stuck their nose in. In the 1980s they were really not interested.”
Earlier this year, the General Cemetery Trust, which runs the site which is owned by the council, said funds had reached a critical level, and that it needed to raise more money for it to continue to work.
The two full-time grounds staff were also laid off my Sheffield City Council in May.
The council approved its own planning application for the site earlier this year, which will allow for the provision of three disabled parking spaces in the cemetery grounds - downscaling its original plans for 13 parking bays.
Campaigners, including disabled people, had argued instead for parking to be provided for disabled residents on the street outside the cemetery, but the council overruled their views.
The announcement is part of £6.2million of funding awarded to three cemeteries across the UK. Sheffield City Council’s Parks and Countryside service received stage one development funding of £429,000 to progress their plans for the cemetery two years ago, and then applied for the full grant earlier this year.
The project aims to carry out essential conservation work to protect the heritage infrastructure, transforming the site into a well-used heritage and wildlife park that will be enjoyed and explored by people of all ages and interests, the council said.
During the project a range of community activities and events will take place giving people the opportunity to become involved and learn more about the historic importance of this site. And a programme of education and training activities will be offered for all ages and abilities at different stages of the project.
Support will be provided for volunteers so that they can continue to help manage the park and its heritage into the future.
Councillor Mary Lea, cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure at said: “I’m delighted that this important project has been recognised by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Big Lottery Fund and National Lottery Players, and to have their support in bringing our plans to life.
“The General Cemetery is one of Sheffield’s hidden gems but maintaining the site has presented many challenges due to the cemetery’s age and unique structure. I’d like to thank the volunteers who’ve supported this work from the Friends of the General Cemetery and Sheffield General Cemetery Trust, whose efforts have been invaluable and to reassure people that we will continue to work with all interested parties and the local community as the scheme progresses.
“Located just ten minutes from our city centre, the General Cemetery is valued for its unique historic character, abundance of plants and wildlife and links to the Peak District. This investment means we can now realise the true potential that lies within this beautiful, historic park for current and future generations.”
The General Cemetery has been in decline in recent years and is currently listed on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register - which the council hopes to revert with the improvement work, which is expected to begin later this year.