“Where do we go from here over Loxley cemetery?”

This letter sent to the Star was written by Mick Drewry, Dunford Bridge, Sheffield, S36

Monday, 15th April 2019, 09:20 am
Updated Thursday, 18th April 2019, 06:31 am
Photos of Loxley Chapel and cemetery, taken by Natalie Jones when she visited on Sunday, August 19

I read with interest articles on Loxley Church and cemetery and the aspirations of Natalie Jones and Emma Thorpe in setting up a volunteer group to rescue the overgrown cemetery and to make the site accessible for visitors; its historical significance is well documented.

Not for the first time in the saga of Loxley cemetery a ‘Friends Of’ group been formed in an effort to make the site accessible and like now, those who got together 20 years ago with the same aspirations were thwarted by the then owners of the site who would not co-operate: Haigh Farming.

Following the arson attack on the Church two years ago the new owners, Ali Property Development, a company owned by Mr. Jameel Ali, was persuaded to meet with interested parties concerned about the future of the Church and cemetery.

At this meeting at Loxley Church Mr. Ali and his architect, Steve Burlaga of Axis Architecture, undertook what in my view was a public relations exercise and people, including Cllr. Penny Baker, went away believing that the Church would be considered for community use as a local heritage centre – the revelation that there are 12 bodies buried under the floor of the Church hindered the potential for residential use - and that Mr. Ali would support and provide for volunteers willing to undertake clearing the overgrown cemetery.

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Despite a promise of further meetings nothing has been seen or heard of Mr Ali since. So, where do we go from here?

There appears to be no legal means to hold Mr Ali to account and that he has no legal obligation to clean the site up. However, I understand that there has been recent legislation regarding the safety of headstones and monuments following tragic accidents in old cemeteries where children have been crushed by falling headstones. I believe that there is now a legal requirement of all cemetery owners to undertake risk assessments and to lay flat or secure any unstable headstones at risk of falling. I also understand that the enforcing agency for this legal requirement is the local authority. There is no way that such a risk assessment can be made at Loxley Cemetery in its present state. What has Sheffield City Council done to enforce this legal requirement? And should there be a planning application for the site (no planning application has been made to date) the local authority can impose conditions with regards to the upkeep of the cemetery.

Short of such interventions we must hope that Mr. Ali steps forward and is true to his word.