Controversial improvement plans for Sheffield General Cemetery have been given the green light - despite objections from residents and conservation groups, and two councillors calling for the plans to be rethought.
Sheffield Council's planning and highways committee approved its own application to carry out works at the site but changed its proposals following concerns over the creation of a 13-bay car park within the Sharrow site, at the authority’s planning and highways committee on Tuesday.
The authority had downgraded the parking plans to three disabled bays, but campaigners, including disabled groups, were calling for the spaces to be placed outside the walls.
The council said the works would see the site removed from Historic England's 'Heritage At Risk' register but objectors also claimed they would lead to the 'unnecessary felling of perfectly healthy trees'.
However, heritage experts also spoke at the meeting - describing the cemetery as a key feature in Sheffield’s historic landscape, which was designed by famed 19th century garden designer Robert Marnock.
Adrian Hallam, from conservation consultancy Ark DM told the hearing that the site is so important it could become a destination for people from outside the city.
He told the hearing: “This is all completely unnecessary. There are three areas around the site where disabled people could be catered for.
“We have become blind to the heritage that is in front of us. We should be providing more spaces for cars to allow better access - we should be providing spaces for coaches on Montague Street.”
Disabled campaigner Joy Bullivant said: “I was on the team that did the access report and we didn’t suggest a carpark within the listed site. I have never had a problem with parking on the street. I park in Montague Street and I have also parked outside the chapel.
“There is a metre slope at best and nobody has a problem with the slope. The biggest problem is the cobbles, which can be covered with a special coating to accommodate wheelchairs.”
Residents also said that the cemetery is a vital green space in an overly urbanised area, and that it has provided a tranquil environment for people struggling with mental health issues.
Councillor Joe Otten proposed to delay a decision so that the committee could consider new plans for the provision of on-street disabled parking.
He said that ultimately the committee was being asked to agree disabled parking within the cemetery site, to provide provision for physically disabled visitors, to a site that was not accessible to anyone who did not come equipped with an electric wheelchair, due to the terrain of the cemetery.
Councillor Jack Clarkson, who seconded the motion, said: “Are we sure, as Sheffield City Council, that we can’t find three disabled parking places outside this park. It’s nearly 160 years old and once that open space is gone, it is gone.”
The decision was passed on a majority, and will now pave the way for a major redevelopments of the historic site.