Work has today started on introducing security fencing around vandal-hit Hunslet Cemetery following a hard fought three-year campaign by local residents.
Hunslet Cemetery is one of the oldest municipal cemeteries in the country but has been blighted by vandalism, thefts from graves, anti-social behaviour and dog fouling.
And this afternoon campaigners who have fought for better security measures gathered at the site to see work start on substantial new security fencing to deter vandals.
There were hugs and congratulations as a small group of members of the Friends of Hunslet Cemetery Group, who also help keep the cemetery clean and tidy, attended a press photocall to mark the occasion.
Middleton Park councillor Kim Groves said the fencing would improve safety and security by replacing a hedge which currently goes along the perimeter and paid tribute to the campaigners. She said:
“We have come a long way. These people have campaigned tirelessly for the security fencing, which is a significant investment from the council.
“Thanks to their efforts they have helped reduce the problems in the cemetery. They’ve stood up to people in the community who they knew were causing problems. They have been the difference and I’m so proud of them.”
Campaigner Gaynor Purvis said:
“We managed to secure an extra police presence when the problems were at their peak. Thefts are still ongoing but it’s not as bad as it was. I hope replacing the hedge with a fence will make it more secure, but also more open and people will be able to keep an eye on it.”
One of the campaigners, Dawn Horkan, who has a relative buried at the cemetery, said she had become so ‘sick’ of vandalism, thefts and other anti-social behaviour in the cemetery that she decided to do something about it. Dawn had previously confronted local perpetrators and threatened to ‘name and shame’ them.
South Leeds Life understands the package of improvements also includes some work in the older cemetery – and there are also plans to set up a local history group to help record the cemetery’s rich history and importance.
Cllr Groves also paid tribute to the efforts of her fellow Middleton Park ward councillors Judith Blake and Paul Truswell, and neighbouring City and Hunslet ward councillors Elizabeth Nash, Mohammed Iqbal and Patrick Davey who had also contributed financially to the work.
The Friends of Hunslet Cemetery group has a lively Facebook group with over 1,100 members.