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Desecration fear over Utley cemetery lodge closure
Bradford councillors are to decide whether to close a cemetery lodge, despite major concerns the move will lead to increased desecration of headstones and thefts of toys and religious ornaments from graves.
The Council’s executive is set to rule on whether to shut Utley Cemetery’s office, which dates back to 1856, to save on operating costs and make a possible £100,000 by selling the building.
Senior officers are supporting its closure while campaigners raised a petition to keep it open following a spate of vandal attacks and thefts, some from children’s graves.
Charlie Bhowmick, who has led the campaign to prevent its closure, said: “There are graves there that are 150 years old and others which are more recent and headstones have been damaged by these awful people.
“There have been several items put out on children’s graves by families – angels and teddy bears and other toys. One man who we spoke to on Sunday said that there were some lads who were helping themselves to some of the toys. The man challenged them and they gave him verbal abuse.
“Why they do these sorts of things is beyond our imagination. We feel that, if they take this office away from this site, it will double the number of vandalism attacks and thefts.”
The retired planning officer, who collected 735 signatures on the petition, said he had had support from Bradford’s Keighley Central Labour Councillors, Abid Hussain and Khadim Hussain and Kaneez Akthar.
A report to be discussed by the executive at City Hall on Friday at 10.30am sets out three options: to close and sell the Utley cemetery lodge, keep the lodge office operational or let the property to a third party.
The report states that the Council will have to pay £44,823 in maintenance costs to keep the building open. Its preferred option is to close and sell the lodge and relocate staff to the former Library Annexe in Keighley.
The report points out that the majority of the district’s 24 cemeteries do not have an on-site office.