Residents criticise 'nonsensical' decision to close cemeteries to the public in Sheffield

Residents have raised concerns after finding a popular Sheffield cemetery was closed to the public for lockdown.
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Walkers spotted a sign bearing the Sheffield Council logo on the railings around Burngreave Cemetery that read: “The cemetery is closed to general visitors.”

It also said under the coronavirus restrictions legislation, the cemetery will be closed to members of the public until December 3 - when lockdown two is due to end.

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The notice listed three exceptions to this: for funerals and burials, commemorative events celebrating the life of a person who has died, or for a person to pay respects to a member of their household, a family member or a friend.

Burngreave Cemetery, SheffieldBurngreave Cemetery, Sheffield
Burngreave Cemetery, Sheffield

But residents say it could negatively impact mental health and wellbeing.

Jo Edmondson, who lives on the nearby Firshill Road, said: “This decision makes no sense and is potentially detrimental to the health and wellbeing and mental health of the many residents served by this large and very beautiful open space.

"This cemetery is an oasis of peace and nature in the middle of a densely populated deprived urban area.

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“During the first lockdown, I walked there every day. It was the only time I left the house and enjoying the peace there kept me sane during that time.

“Many others also used the cemetery in the same way including many with disabilities and mental health issues that would prevent them from going elsewhere.

"It is an ideal area for exercise during lockdown due to its wide avenues and many paths, making it possible to walk, jog or cycle while maintaining a safe social distance.

“I truly believe Burngreave Cemetery provided a lifeline for many residents during the first lockdown. What possible reason could there be for closing it this time round?”

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Residents in other parts of the country where similar notices were found, such as Leicestershire, also raised alarm calling the new rules the "most bizarre" yet.

Ruth Bell, head of parks and countryside at Sheffield Council, said: “The latest coronavirus regulations set out by the government for the current national lockdown includes direction that cemeteries must be closed to members of the public except for specific uses identified. These uses include attending a funeral or visiting the grave of a loved one or friend.

"Sheffield Council erected signage explaining the rules to those visiting cemeteries. No council run cemeteries are closed – anyone who wishes to reach the graves and memorials of their loved ones is able to do so.

"We would ask that anyone attending a cemetery follows all government guidance and is respectful of others within the space."

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Sheffield Council is responsible for 16 cemeteries across the city. These are: Abbey Lane, Beighton, Burncross, Burngreave, City Road, Crookes, Darnall, Ecclesfield, Handsworth, Intake, Norton, Shiregreen, Stocksbridge, Tinsley Park, Wisewood and Woodhouse.

Parks and other green spaces remain open in lockdown two.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.