Fears Sheffield General Cemetery could close as funds reach 'critical level'

Sheffield General Cemetery.
Sheffield General Cemetery.
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Volunteers fear Sheffield General Cemetery could close after the site's two paid staff were told they would lose their jobs next month and funds reached a 'critical level'.

Sheffield General Cemetery Trust held its general meeting on Wednesday night and volunteers said they were worried about who will manage the facility once the general manager and landscape conservation supervisor.

Janet Ridler.

Janet Ridler.

The concerns come as the trust, which manages the cemetery, said funds had reached a 'critical level' and that it needed to raise more money to continue its work.

Frank Cooper, who has volunteered at the Sharrow park as part of the Friends of the General Cemetery since 1989, said: "I have been involved almost from the beginning and I have put a lot of years in and I feel it's really sad that it has come to this.

"The two members of staff were employed by the trust and without them it's going to be a case of who is going to do it."

A letter summarising the volunteers' concerns said once the two part-time members of staff would be made redundant at the end of June.

It said: "As SGCT members and volunteers we are seriously concerned about how Sheffield General Cemetery Trust can function in both the short and longer term.

"We as volunteers have given many hours our time, as have the trustees. The trustees have the responsibility to manage the finances of Sheffield General Cemetery but the information we have does not give us confidence that good provision is being made."

Janet Ridler, a trustee at SGCT, said talk of a possible closure may be a little premature but added the trust was having a 'funding crisis'.

She said: "We are having a funding crisis at the minute. Obviously we are a very small charity which has been funded largely on donations and small grants but funders nowadays are more reluctant to fund core running costs so a combination of all that has led to use putting the word out to people about the work the trust does and we're asking people to either get involved or, perhaps more crucially, make donations.

"We are not looking at it closing at the minute though. The trust is still operational. Obviously volunteers are very concerned because we are in that situation where money is very low. We have certainly not discussed it but we need money and ultimately if we don't get money in we don't know about the future."

The worrying news comes just three weeks after Sheffield Council approved its own planning application to carry out controversial improvements at the site.

The authority's planning and highways committee gave the green light for works which they claim will see the site removed from Historic England's Heritage At Risk register.

But those living near the site objected to the creation of a 13-bay car park within the site, leading the council to downgrade the proposals to three disabled bays.

Ms Ridler added: "There has been some confusion recently with the council applying for the grant and the planning application. People think we are coming into the money and we are not."

Lisa Firth, head of parks and countryside at Sheffield Council said: “We’re sorry to hear that the General Cemetery trust has had to reduce staffing levels. We work together with the trust volunteers in the cemetery and are grateful for their continued support and commitment in helping to maintain this historically important site.”

For more information on the appeal for funds or to donate visit www.gencem.org