Chapel future is still in limbo

Alison Lowe of Friends of Lumbutts Chapel wrote to Rev Newton
Alison Lowe of Friends of Lumbutts Chapel wrote to Rev Newton

Camapaigners hoping to secure a community future for a chapel which closed a year ago but still has a graveyard in use claim their efforts are being ignored by the church’s authorities.

Friend of Lumbutts Chapel have concerns about the future of the building and particularly its graveyard, which still has burial plots awaiting use by the families which own them.

They claim they have had no response to correspondence with the Methodist Circuit in Calderdale, including a petition and feasibility studies for the community to buy the property for which they claim they have two viable briefs for development.

But a surveyor acting for the Methodist Church in the matter said the group had been kept informed of up to date developments where it was possible, though not neccessarily in writing, and would be given the opportunity to buy the chapel and graveyard along with anyone else.

Mr Ryan Barker of Walker Singleton, Halifax, said that fundamentally the best price had to be obtained for the church but there was a willingness for that to be a form of community ownership.

“They will be kept in the loop. We certainly don’t want to restrict the groups from making a bid, but that needs to be satisfied for best price,” he said. Everyone had to be given the opportunity to bid for the property when it was put on the market.

Just after New Year, Alison Lowe of Friends of Lumbutts Chapel emailed Rev Alistair Newton of the Calderdale Methodist Circuit to reiterate the groups’ and individuals’ concerns.

“There is still a huge amount of worry and strong feeling regarding the churchyard of which you are no doubt aware,” she wrote.

“I do not feel you have engaged appropriately with the group or commented as you should have particularly regarding the wishes of the community for the churchyard, which we are all aware remains very active, with the last burial right on the main path only just having occurred...there has been no formal response to our petition, the ensuing report or the promise of financial assistance.

“Even if your response is not in line with the wishes of our community I feel strongly that a response fit for publication in the newspaper should have been made.”

Questions posed by the group include whether the circuit was able to sell or lease the graveyard while outstanding burial rights remained; did these rights mean the circuit had to remain freeholder of the ground; did the circuit intend to sell or lease the graveyard to whoever buys the chapel, be that a community group or otherwise; would the circuit be prepared to include in the sale document restrictions on the graveyard to protect plot holders that would remain in place long term, even if the chapel and graveyard are sold several times over the years; asking the circuit to retain retaining the graveyard as they have done at nearby Mankinholes, to be maintained by the Friends; and asking what would be the situation if Calderdale Council wished to purchase part of the field for a municipal graveyard.

Rev Newton said he was not able to comment on the matters but but referred the Todmorden News for comment to Mr Barker, who explained that the Methodist Church property trustees in Manchester had made the decision to sell.

Although there were some issues to resolve which he was unable to disclose, he said regarding the Friends: “I have personally informed them of the updated position, They will be on the list when it comes back on the open market for sale,” he said.

He did not expect the position to move forward for three or four months.

Legislation governed all church closures and this would be adhered to.

The church appreciated the graveyard issue was a sensitive one but regarding that and the chapel he said: “Rarely would we split them. Anybody that has pre-bought plots will be fully entitled to be interred there.

“I have given them as much information as I can do, and stress they have just as much chance as anyone. They will certainly be kept in the loop,” he said.