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Politics Swansea West Wales

Plans for Bonymaen cemetery car park and flats unlikely to be approved

Adulam Chapel, Bonymaen, Swansea, which its owner wants to convert into flats along with a graveyard car park (Pic: Richard Youle)

A PROPOSAL to build a car park on part of a graveyard and convert the adjacent chapel into flats has had a cool reception from a senior Swansea Council planning officer.

The owners of Adulam Chapel, Bonymaen, had submitted a pre-application enquiry to the council to create nine flats and use part of the cemetery for a 12-space car park.

The car park proposal prompted an outcry from many people, particularly those with relatives buried there. One of them said: “You cannot Tarmac over someone’s body.”

An online petition was signed by nearly 1,500 people with many more filling in a paper version.

A planning officer has now assessed the proposal and said it was unlikely that the authority would approve it if the owners put in for detailed planning.

The officer said the proposed increase in the chapel’s height to accommodate the flats would not be acceptable, and that some of them would overlook neighbouring properties and gardens to an unacceptable degree.

The officer’s report said the car park, to the left of the chapel looking from Cefn Road, would disturb occupants of the ground floor flats and a neighbouring house. On the matter of moving and recording gravestones, as the applicants proposed, the officer said this “may further amplify the inappropriate design approach of the overall development”, and advised them to consult the Disused Burial Grounds Act. The report said there might also be covenants relating to the land. “Whilst some of these matters are outside the planning process, it is likely that they could influence the design approach associated with any redevelopment of the site,” it said.

The report referenced “significant public interest” in the scheme and suggested that the applicants, C George & Associate, may wish to speak to local people before submitting any further proposals.

A group set up in Bonymaen to object to the proposal included Neea Powell,  her mother and her aunt. Miss Powell’s grandmother, whose husband was buried in Adulam Chapel graveyard 30 years ago, was laid to rest there in December 2022.

Miss Powell felt the car park element of the proposal was “so disrespectful” because part of the graveyard would need to be disturbed.

She said she welcomed the planning officer’s assessment “100 per cent”.

The chapel was built 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.

Miss Powell said she and others did not wish to see the chapel empty for too long and understood the need for housing, although she pointed out that the council had recently submitted large-scale housing plans for land in Bonymaen.

She said she would be happy to meet the applicants, but added: “We won’t back down.”

Speaking last November, Bill Sandhu, one of the chapel’s new owners, said the flats would help tackle the housing shortage, and that there had been positive feedback from people living close by. He also said he’d 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. When told about the anger the proposal had caused among some, Mr Sandhu said: “We don’t want to upset anyone. It is a big space which could be used better, and we know housing is in demand.”

Another of those dismayed at the chapel proposal was Richard Christensen, who lives opposite. He said he had a cousin who was buried there and that family members frequently visited his grave. “You cannot Tarmac over someone’s body,” he said. “It’s a massive ‘no’.”

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