Police called after flare-up at meeting

NEAA 11-06-12 BE 12 Cllrs Jim McDonald and David Nunn at Kimberley cemetery chapel.
NEAA 11-06-12 BE 12 Cllrs Jim McDonald and David Nunn at Kimberley cemetery chapel.

The police were called when protesters refused to leave Kimberley council meeting where controversial plans for the future of the town’s historic cemetery chapel were on the agenda.

Concerned members of the residents’ association staged a sit-in at the Kimberley Town Council amenities and estates meeting when they were asked to leave before the future of the chapel on Knowle Hill had been discussed.

Councillors called the police to have them removed but the protesters eventually left of their own accord.

The police confirmed they had been called at 9pm on Thursday July 10 but did not send officers as ‘there were no perceived threats to public safety or crimes taking place’.

At the centre of the flare-up are plans for the future of the Victorian chapel, which dates back to the 1880s.

The council is planning to turn the building into a community facility despite having spent £11,500 on a feasibility report which revealed that 79 per cent of people who took part want the chapel to remain available only for funerals, weddings and naming ceremonies.

The town council however has decided to follow the request of the 35 per cent of people who responded and want the venue converted into a space for community groups to use.

Current proposals would see the pews stripped out, a kitchen and toilets added and a conservatory built.

But formal plans or applications for permission have not yet been submitted.

The council said the reason people were asked to leave the meeting was that ‘comercially sensitive’ details regarding funding for the project were to be discussed.

Residents’ association member Gordon Barksby, who was at the council meeting, is fighting the conversion plans for the chapel.

He said: “It should remain a chapel of rest and not become a ‘tea room’.

“I shall be very upset if they go ahead with the plans as it is a beautiful building and they would desecrate it in my view.”

Mr Barksby also alleged that on leaving the meeting, council vice-chairman, Cllr David Nunn, swore at him and told him not to return to future council meetings.

When this was put to Cllr Nunn he said he ‘could not confirm nor deny’ whether he swore at Mr Barksby.

He refused to comment further on either the chapel or the disruption at the meeting.

Instead he left it to the council’s press officer, who said: “Kimberley Town Council has been working to restore the cemetery chapel, which has been in need of substantial repair for some time.

“The building has limited facilities. The council has aimed to enhance these to accommodate a wider use according to the community’s needs.”

According to the council, the funding for the cemetery chapel project will partly come from a grant of £35,000 awarded by Nottinghamshire County Council as part of the Supporting Local Communities scheme.

However, the county council have confirmed that the grant has not yet been awarded to Kimberley Town Council. County Hall confirmed the application has been added to a reserve list and will be reconsidered if more money becomes available.