Last night (18/12/14) Kimberley Town Council met to decide the future of the iconic Cemetery Chapel.
The future of the Chapel has been the subject of debate for many years and whilst the debate has continued the chapel has fallen into disrepair and was closed as it had become unsafe over 2 years ago.
Whilst those choosing to use the chapel for funeral arrangements were small in number approx 3-4 per year the significance of being able to use the Chapel as a resting place and also burial service is significant for many in Kimberley and the withdrawal of this facility is something that causes genuine distress to many.
There have been many suggestions for the future of the chapel and many plans considered, there are also many aspects of the council’s plans that I agree with, they are;
- There needs to be progress made on the chapel so it can be preserved and re-opened for the community, this is something all those who care about the chapel agree on.
- Whatever the future of the chapel, if it is to be used for any gatherings Weddings, Funerals, meetings or whatever there has to be basic facilities and these would include a toilet and facility for making a hot drink. I realise not all similar venues do accommodate this but in 2014 we are in a place where these are basic needs for gatherings of people.
There has been speculation that the council plans to build a kitchen within the chapel would result in it becoming a social venue with parties etc I don’t believe this is the intention of the council or would be of any future council. The sensitivity of the area is something that everyone agrees on I am sure.
However there are many areas of the plans put forward by Kimberley Town Council where I do have concerns.
For those who haven’t followed recent events the council commissioned surveyors Faithful & Gould to report on what repairs the chapel needed, what was the local opinion on its future use and to suggest ways the chapel could be developed going forward. The cost of this work was £11,500 and although denied by some of the council now the clear intention at the time was that Faithful and Gould would also then submit the plans to various bodies to seek funding on behalf of the council and as this would be done professionally it would result in higher grants being awarded than if the council did it alone. Hence the £11,500 was seen as an investment to recoup future funding.
This is why I when on the council voted in favour of commissioning Faithful and Gould.
In fact it was later revealed after the commission that Faithful and Gould would not undertake any applications for funding on behalf of the council and therefore the £11,500 fee merely produced a set of proposed plans for the chapel and a survey of local residents both of which could have been obtained locally at minimal cost.
There has more recently been a series of ideas put forward including the addition of an extension to the chapel which due to local feeling and planning issues have now been dropped. Consultation has been minimal, last night’s meeting was only advertised by the council on its website and the actual drawings of how it plans to convert the chapel have not been publicised. Calls last night from both the public and councillors to continue with a robust consultation were not even put to a vote. Most people in Kimberley I am sure will not know what is planned for their chapel and have not been able to give informed comment.
The council now plan not to extend the building but to convert the small room opposite the entrance to a toilet facility and to place a kitchen in the front of the main area that most would recognise as the ‘alter` space although I appreciate as an un-consecrated chapel it isn’t an later in fact. The pews will be removed and replaced by movable conference seating.
The costings are anticipated to be:
Concrete block and beam floor with 150mm insulation and 70mm screed £7,500
Wet system underfloor heating with electric boiler £6,000
Disabled toilet £1,200
Separate room to front of chapel (alter) £2,600
New Kitchen in above room £2,300
Electrics and LED lighting £4,700
Septic tank and drainage £7,200
New water pipe from existing supply £3,000
Building regulations £600
Floor coverings £1,800
5% contingency £1,900
Total cost of plans in region of £40,000
I asked repeatedly last night what applications had been made to any bodies for funding grants and was only told of a grant from Nottinghamshire County Council for £30,000 which was announced by Kimberley Town Council and County Councillor Ken Rigby earlier this year when in fact the County council made clear it had never been granted, no further applications have been made and so the £11,500 report that would give a funding return has produced £zero funding.
It was also said by many councillors last night that the renovations would create a new social hub in the town that would be used by various groups, educational faculties etc. When I again repeatedly asked what groups and what revenue would it return and where is the business plan to show the need for the high level renovation no answer was given. The issue of car parking was also raised – Cllr Susan Page said Victoria Street car park was only 7-8 minutes ways, those in Kimberley will know that’s an optimistic time allowed and many would take far longer to make the walk and in adverse weather would not create the best start to a wedding, there is little by way of disabled parking in the area and the likelihood is that local residential areas would become makeshift car parks in the absence of any other facility.
The vote was taken to go ahead with the plans, and the result was
Cllr Dave Nunn – in Favour
Cllr Jim McDonald – in Favour
Cllr Christine Brown – in Favour
Cllr Sue Cooper – in Favour
Cllr Andy Cooper – in Favour
Cllr Susan Page – in Favour
Cllr Jeff Dickman – in Favour
Cllr Tony Hallard – Abstained
Cllr Kat Boettge – Against
Cllr Ian Wilson – Against
Cllr Karen Tennant – Against
Cllr Mary McGuckin Absent
Cllr Kirsty John Absent
Cllr Jim Dymond Absent
Therefore the council plan to go ahead with its controversial plan with just 4 months before the town council election with most people in Kimberley having little knowledge of what is happening , all monies coming from council funds , no idea of whether the finished result will be utilised or what revenue will be returned.
Green Party Town Councillor Kat Boettge and I are formulating a campaign against the plans to allow for more consultation with a selection of detailed plans being given to people of Kimberley with a real opportunity to respond. If after that this plan is the preferred option of the Town of Kimberley it will have my full support.
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Green Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate – Broxtowe