A historic building with a roof that’s been leaking for years and a floor that’s covered in so much toxic pigeon poo that it needs to be professionally removed might make for an unlikely scene of a new community enterprise.
But a group of determined Pudsey folk are aiming to restore the run-down Pudsey Cemetery chapel building – which has been closed for almost 16 years – and transform it into a thriving business.
The Friends of Pudsey Cemetery and Chapel have answered an appeal by Leeds City Council to take over the building and restore it to its former glory, offering a place for funerals and burials, as well as storing ashes. There are also plans to include community facilities on the site, including a centre celebrating Pudsey’s history and heritage.
The group is waiting to hear from the council whether its bid to take over the building on a peppercorn rent from the council. If it does take it on, the group will be responsible for restoring the building and making it fit for purpose.
The group has already been busy fundraising and will be putting in funding bids to restore the buildings.
Chair Damon Sugden said the two chapels, off Cemetery Road, are an important part of Pudsey’s history and added:
“If we get permission to take on the building we’re hoping to bring the whole community together and get everyone involved in fundraising. We’re confident we’ll have a business plan to make this work.”
War veterans and former Pudsey dignitaries are all buried in the cemetery grounds.
The building, which features two chapels and spire, dates back to 1875 and overlooks a near 12-acre cemetery which was listed as a Grade II* park and garden in May 2002.
The council said earlier this year that any not-for-profit group or local organisation expressing an interest in a Community Asset Transfer would have the chance to bring the building, which has fallen into disrepair and suffered from vandalism and theft, back into use in some way. Their vision needs to bring community benefits and be in keeping with the area.
One of the chapels was consecrated in May 1875 by the Church of England and any group wishing to take over the site would also need to consider this element as part of their outline proposals.
The Friends group – which was launched at a packed public meeting in 2017 – has since run a number of action days and activities in the cemetery.
A decision on the community takeover is expected to be made soon.
A delegation from the Friends group recently visited historic Bramley Baths, which was the subject of a successful community takeover in 2013, on a fact-finding mission.
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