There were head-shakes and outbursts of opposition as councillors debated whether to add three disabled parking spaces at Sheffield General Cemetery.
The proposal was eventually approved yesterday at a Planning and Highways Committee meeting, despite heavy opposition from the public gallery. The councillors believed the need to accommodate disabled members of the community outweighed the disruption to the nature reserve in the cemetery.
Cemetery visitors said the council wasn’t taking into consideration invisible disabilities such as bipolar disorder. Disrupting the cemetery’s nature reserve would diminish the sense of safety for such people, they added.
Councillors in favour of extra parking spaces said the gradient outside the cemetery would make it unlikely for visitors with limited mobility to access the park.
Other alternatives were proposed such as including disabled spaces outside the cemetery within the public street-side parking already available.
A former Sheffield General Cemetery Trustee, who did not wish to be named, said he did not believe street-side spaces would prevent disabled people from enjoying the cemetery.
He said: “I was a trustee for a number of years on site, so I know it very well and I take groups around to the site. I also lead groups around of varying abilities. So there are a lot of disabled people who I take around the site, and we don’t find that much of an issue getting around site.”
Other members of the public were doubtful the disabled spaces would be used appropriately.
“It’s not going to be people who use the cemetery. It’s going to be people who work around here because it’s free,” said Ashley, who visits the cemetery on a daily basis.
Though the opposition seems overwhelming, many of the cemetery’s visitors are in favour of the parking spaces.
“I think it will be very beneficial for people with disabilities,” said Michael, a regular cemetery visitor. He added he did not believe the spaces would have any negative impact on the nature reserve.
The number of spaces were reduced to three from the original 13 proposed after uproar from Sheffield residents, who collected 900 signatures to stop the car park from being built.
As a result of the meeting, new additions to the cemetery have been proposed such as better pathways, walls and catacombs, as well as new lighting.
Alex, a cemetery visitor, said: “I’m personally very supportive of it [Extra disabled parking]. I think the cemetery is an amazing place. I’ve known it for over 10 years. I think it is a fantastic wildlife haven as it’s got a huge amount of heritage and I want to see the cemetery improved because, if you walk around, you can see some of the paths need restoring.
“I know the council is very short of money and they need the money to uplift the cemetery so I’m personally really supportive of the uplifting of the cemetery.”