Unrest in Hodley: Families Protest Graveyard’s Transformation into Parking Lot

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A cloud of apprehension looms over the pastoral tranquility of Hodley, Powys, where allegations have erupted concerning a road constructed through a local graveyard. Affected families claim that tombstones from the cemetery at Bethany Chapel have been displaced, with some even reported as missing.

The furore centres around Dolafon Gospel Hall Trust, an institution of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church which is currently restoring the chapel site to create a meeting spot. The Trust has firmly rejected all claims that the renovation work has led to the loss of any gravestones.

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The transition from a graveyard to a parking area, including an access route, was approved in the previous year by Powys council. Dyfed-Powys Police is currently investigating what has been articulated as a case of ‘criminal damage’ at the chapel site in Hodley, Newtown.

The transformation has been met with vehement backlash from grieving relatives who categorised the works as ‘disgraceful’ and ‘insensitive’, painting a troubling picture of a sacred area disrupted. They expressed their deep dismay at seeing the road erected on the resting places of their family members.

Among the aggrieved is the White Lewis family, who have relatives spanning generations buried in the now controversial location. They voiced their shock and anguish at what they deem as an inappropriate development, launched without any consultation or communication. The family is in pursuit of assurance that their ancestors’ remains are intact, untouched with respect to their final resting place.

In addition, the family lamented the disappearance of the tombstone dedicated to their grandparents, John Davies Lewis and Olive Lewis. Their pleas extended to the immediate halting of all work, a return to the graveyard’s former state, and a rededication – all to facilitate the re-establishment of tranquility for their loved ones’ peaceful eternal slumber.

Among the concerned parties is Jackie Davies, related to some of Hodley’s deceased. Taking matters into her hands, she initiated a campaign through a social media page seeking concern and unity from other aggrieved families. She narrates chilling tales of relatives, devastated, finding their loved ones’ graves disturbed.

The Trust’s proposed changes, despite the ongoing outcry, faced opposition from the start as both the local community council and highways authority did not provide backing. Furthermore, the Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust sounded the alarm, highlighting the troubled work within the chapel’s former graveyard area, a site that holds a Grade II listed status.

Despite these reservations, the development was approved by a planning officer under delegated powers, although not brought before the planning committee. This move raised questions among community members and council leaders alike, who questioned the transparency of this decision.

Powys council confirmed they are investigating a potential breach of planning regulations. The council spokesman noted the relocation of six headstones had been approved back in 2012; however, any work on graves would necessitate a separate consent from the Home Office. While it is declared that the agent was informed of this protocol, any additional relocations of tombstones was not a part of the planning permission granted in June 2022.

Despite the backlash, Dolafon Trust maintains a stance of community goodwill. A spokesperson declared the Trust’s commitment to adhere meticulously to the planning consent authorised by Powys County Council, vowing to carry out the important restoration work with “respect and compassion.” They affirmed the Trust’s firm intent to ensure the chapel resumes its primary role as a place of worship, while causing minimal disturbance to the resting places nestled within its boundaries.