Fear for access to loved ones’ graves as Yorkshire church could become housing

The Church of the Holy Innocents at Vicarage Road, Dewsbury. Credit: SC1 Property
The Church of the Holy Innocents at Vicarage Road, Dewsbury. Credit: SC1 Property

The Church of the Holy Innocents at Vicarage Road, Dewsbury, is currently vacant after being forced to close its doors due to dwindling congregation numbers. Dating back to the Victorian era, the Grade II-listed building is described in the application documents as a “landmark feature” of Dewsbury.

The application to Kirklees Council would see the church converted into two homes, each with four or more bedrooms plus a car park. In supporting documents, it is stated that the demolition and re-modelling of the existing building will be kept to an “absolute minimum” with the fabric of the church to be retained as much as possible.

While some residents who have submitted representations welcome the idea of the church being given a new lease of life and purpose, concerns have been expressed over how people will continue to access the graves of their loved ones.

One resident said: “I personally have no issue with regards to the conversion of the church to two dwellings. It will mean that this beautiful building will survive and be cared for for many years to come rather that it end up dilapidated and left in ruins.

“My issue is with the access to the churchyard and the graves for families to visit loved ones. Because my family member whose ashes are actually buried within the boundary line, am I and my family going to be allowed access to visit and tend the area as it is so close to the residents’ living quarters.

“Also the pay back team do a great job of keeping the vegetation down in the burial ground beyond the church yard, will they have access with their equipment to carry out this very necessary work.”

Other residents have objected to the proposals on a similar basis. One stated that it is unclear how public access to the graves will be maintained with this described as “essential.” The resident continues: “The submitted documentation does not detail plans put in place to ensure existing gravestones (some of which are in close proximity to the church) will not be damaged during the extensive building works.”

A target date for a decision on the application currently stands at Friday, September 15.