From 4pm today, a North London cemetery popular with British Turks is closing its doors to the public and visitors after serious health and safety concerns were raised by the local authority. This morning, the owners of Tottenham Park Cemetery were served with an enforcement order by council inspectors from Enfield Council who made an extensive inspection of the site and found that a spire on a disused small chapel poses an imminent danger to visitors, prompting the immediate shutdown.
Speaking to T-VINE this morning, Terry Lowe, a director at Badgehurst Limited, which owns the cemetery, said: “Health and Safety officers are currently on site. They have serious concerns about the spire, which they feel could topple over at any moment and cause loss of life. It needs urgent repairs. We’ve been advised we will need to close the cemetery to the public until the spire is made safe.”
Mr Lowe, who is the Cemetery Superintendent for Tottenham Park located off Montagu Road in Edmonton, explained that the situation is compounded by the fact that although disused, the chapel, which sits at the end of a small road inside the cemetery, has historic significance and so can’t be knocked down:
“A few years ago, the entire site was named a conservation area, which means we have to restore the chapel to its former glory. It’s worrying because we are a small family business and don’t have access to the resources needed to finance such an extensive restoration.”
“We will do our best to get the cemetery open again as soon as possible. We hope these immediate works will take no more than a week. But as of now, the cemetery is closed to all visitors”
T-VINE spoke to Mr Lowe again after the council’s site inspection was concluded. He gave editor İpek Özerim an update on the situation:
“We’ve been told we must close the gates immediately. I explained to the inspectors we already have two funerals planned for today and was told as soon as they finish, the site must be closed off to the public and remain closed until they can verify the site is safe. It’s left us in a terrible position.
“I called up the funeral directors as soon as we were given the enforcement order, so they could liaise with the affected families. We know that after the burial, friends and family members want constant access to the grave so they can remain close to their loved ones. We didn’t want to mislead anyone, but the council have set down the rules and we are obliged to enforce them.”
Enfield Council has given Badgehurst five working days to make the spire safe. Should they fail to do so in the set time frame, the council will send in their own team and charge the costs back to the company. Mr Lowe says their plan is to fence off the chapel and bring in a crane to secure the spire:
“We will do our best to get the cemetery open again as soon as possible. We hope these immediate works will take no more than a week. But as of now, the cemetery is closed to all visitors.”
The development comes after members of the British Turkish community made multiple complaints to the local authority about health and safety concerns at the privately-owned cemetery. Tottenham Park Charitable Trust, a 25-year-old organisation formed to represent friends and family of those buried at the grounds, held a public meeting last night to discuss their campaign to improve standards at the cemetery.
Photo © Alev Horgan / Facebook: the disused historic chapel at Tottenham Park Cemetery, from Oct 2015