Dewsbury Cemetery chapels pledge made after Reporter campaign

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DEWSBURY Regeneration Board has pledged its help with the restoration of the town’s derelict cemetery chapels after a Reporter campaign.

The Reporter teamed up with Dewsbury Cemetery Action Group last summer to draw attention to the terrible state of the two chapels, which are owned by Kirklees Council.

The Help Our Heritage campaign aimed to raise awareness of problems at the cemetery in its 150th year and called on the board to lend a hand.

Since then, the board has carried out a feasibility study to find out how much it would cost to make the Grade II listed chapels wind and waterproof.

A board spokeswoman said it was unable to meet the £200,000 cost but match funding was now being made available.

Action group chairwoman Joyce Wilcock said members were delighted with the promise of match funding.

She said: “This is a good start and we look forward to action on the chapels as soon as possible.

“We need to see action in other areas of the cemetery as well because we get visitors from all over the world. We need to make the cemetery a place where people can feel welcome.”

Mrs Wilcock was the first member of the public to sit in on a regeneration board meeting when councillors invited her along to talk about the chapels.

She said: “I got a verbal promise that the repairs would be a first stage prior to one of the chapels being opened to visitors.”

The action group would like to see both the chapels restored and brought back into use.

It would like one turned into a visitor centre with toilets and facilities for a night watchman, and the second used for small funerals and memorial services.

It was founded in 1997 when Kirklees Council appealed for people interested in working with it to restore the chapels.

Council officers drew up plans for the chapels and prepared a Heritage Lottery bid, but the project fell by the wayside when the council proved reluctant to make a commitment to maintain the buildings.

Mrs Wilcock said: “This has gone on for way too long and I think the council has a responsibility to honour what they originally planned. If they had looked after these buildings, they wouldn’t be in this state now.”

A board spokeswoman said it would do what it could to help with the restoration of the chapels from now on.

She said: “Support will be offered to the group to help them secure additional funding to carry out the works.

“The board has also said it will ask other successful local groups to mentor this group in best practice and finding funds.”

Mrs Wilcock said: “I see this as good step forward and if this can be maintained, progress could at last be made.”