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Fury at plans for car park on chapel graveyard

23 Nov 2023 4 minute read
Some of the graves to the left of Adulam Chapel, Bonymaen. Photo Richard Youle

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

Plans to build a car park at a chapel graveyard and turf over other parts of it has infuriated relatives of people buried there.

The owners of the former Adulam Chapel, Bonymaen, have submitted a pre-application enquiry to Swansea Council to convert the building into nine flats and provide 12 parking spaces.

The site layout plan shows a car park to the left of the chapel, looking from Cefn Road, and new patches of grass to the front and rear.

These areas are full of graves. It also shows a “heritage and vista” gazebo by the car park looking across towards Swansea Bay, plus a new hedgerow separating the lawn area at the rear of the chapel from the rest of the graveyard beyond.

Headstones

The layout plan said the headstones would be placed against the boundary walls and that landscaping proposals for the graveyard would be explored and agreed with the council. All headstones and gravestones would be recorded and photographed prior to any work.

Adulam Chapel, Bonymaen, Swansea, which its owner wants to convert into flats along with a graveyard car park. Photo Richard Youle

Bill Sandhu, one of the chapel’s two new owners, said the flats would help tackle the housing shortage. He said there had been positive feedback from people living close by.

But nobody who spoke to the Local Reporting Service said they’d been consulted. Cefn Road resident Carl Thomas said: “I have family members buried in the grounds and can’t even begin to explain how I feel about their graves being concreted over for car parking.”

He added: “There are bats in the building, which I thought were a protected species. There’s been many a night where we’ve sat out the back and watched them come out of the building.”

Seafarer Gavin John, who grew up next to the chapel, said people understood that a new use would have to be found for the empty building. What had “really got people’s backs up”, he said, was the impact of the garden and parking proposals on the graves.

Mr John said: “Somebody texted me saying, ‘You would not believe what they’re going to do with the Adulam,’. People are fuming about it.”

His father’s funeral took place at the chapel in 2016, and his mother still lives next door to it. He added: “During the war my grandmother had a daughter, who died as a baby. She’s buried there.”

According to Mr John a Second World War veteran who took part in Atlantic and Arctic convoys was laid to rest there, plus a soldier from the First World War, and three sisters who drowned in 1912 in the sea off Jersey Marine.

Richard Christensen, who lives opposite the chapel, said he had a cousin who was buried there. Family members, he said, frequently visited his grave. “You cannot Tarmac over someone’s body,” he said. “It’s a massive ‘no’.” He was also worried that people living in the flats would overlook his garden.

Petition

Bonymaen councillor Paul Lloyd said he counted 14 people who had expressed concerns about the plans at a surgery he and fellow ward councillor Mandy Evans held earlier this week. “We share their views,” he said. Cllr Lloyd said paper and online petitions opposing the proposal had been set up.

The chapel was built in around 1850 and renovated in the early 1960s before closing in July 2022, although graveyard access remained. It was then sold for £27,500, with the sales brochure indicating that the purchaser would need to maintain the graveyard and allow future burials at no cost.

Mr Sandhu, of Kidwelly, said he had been advised that a similar chapel re-development had taken place elsewhere, that a chapel’s graveyard was not consecrated ground, and that the most recent burial at Adulam Chapel was many years ago.

He said the intention was to hand over the chapel site to a social housing provider, and that people’s views would be taken into account. Council planning officers will provide comments on the pre-application enquiry but no work could take place before a full planning application was submitted and approved by the authority.

When told about the anger the proposal had caused among some, Mr Sandhu said: “We don’t want to upset anyone.”

He added: “It is a big space which could be used better, and we know housing is in demand.”


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Rhufawn Jones
Rhufawn Jones
2 months ago

Cwbl warthus. Dim byd yn gysygredig. Rhywun arall yn rheibio tiroedd Cymru er mwyn gwneyd arian. Fe wertha ei nain am geiniog, debyg.

Evan Aled Bayton
Evan Aled Bayton
2 months ago

The state of planning in Swansea they’ll probably do it. If they can let a developer fell a giant redwood and clear part of a mature forest then covering over a few graves won’t bother them at al.

Barbara H.
Barbara H.
2 months ago

I am experiencing this at the main cemetary, Karrakatta in Perth, Western Australia.They are doing a “renewal” program.
In my case, they have decided to remove the headstones and create footpaths over the exisitng graves. They then have new burial spaces between the existing graves.

The movie “Poltergeist” (1982) is about this kind of disrespect.

robin campbell
robin campbell
2 months ago

A social housing organisation tried doing the same at Babell Cemetery, Cwmbwrla about 15 years ago. We formed a protest group and stopped it going ahead.

Bernice
Bernice
2 months ago
Reply to  robin campbell

Well done! X

Bernice
Bernice
2 months ago

A compromise can be found. X

Bernice
Bernice
2 months ago

It is very close to to many Busses so no need for much parking, AND please respect the families of people buried there (however long ago!)…such a cheap price so DO NOT forget details given before the sale.

Bernice
Bernice
2 months ago

Mr Sandhu, you have already upset people, You MUST find a compromise. X

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