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Bethany Chapel graveyard road faces police investigation

Concerns about a road built through a graveyard are being investigated by police.


Families of people buried at Bethany Chapel said headstones had been moved


Families of people buried at Bethany Chapel, in Hodley, Powys, claim headstones had been moved and some have even gone missing.


Dolafon Gospel Hall Trust, part of Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, is renovating the chapel for use as a meeting place.


It denied works had resulted in gravestones being lost.


The trust was granted planning consent last year by Powys council for a change of land use to form a car park and access route.


Dyfed-Powys Police said it was "investigating a report of criminal damage at Bethany Chapel, Hodley, Newtown"


Relatives of the dead branded work carried out as "disgraceful" and "insensitive".


They said they were distraught to see the road built on loved-ones' graves.


The White Lewis family have grandparents and great-grandparents in the graveyard.


One family left a note to relatives in the graveyard


The family said: "We are all shocked and deeply upset. None of us have had any communication regarding our opinions on this completely inappropriate development.


"We call for reassurance and evidence that our loved ones' remains have not been disturbed or even taken away."


The family said the headstone for their grandparents, John Davies Lewis and Olive Lewis, was missing.


They called on Powys council and Dyfed-Powys Police to halt work at the site, and for the rededication and restoration of the graveyard to its previous condition, so "our family members can once again rest in peace".


Jackie Davies, related through marriage to people buried at Hodley, started a social media page to contact other families.


Ms Davies said: "Relatives have been in touch with us, horrified that this has happened to their loved ones who've been laid to rest here. They're just distraught."


One woman, she claimed, visited to lay flowers on her grandparents' grave only to find the headstone gone.


"She was very distraught, very upset," Ms Davies said.


The trust's application was not supported by the local community council or highways authority.


Clwyd Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) noted the chapel's Grade II listed status and that the proposed work would be "within the former graveyard area."


A letter sent by community members raised questions about the impact on graves and the council noted the application was "limited on detail".


The development was given the go-ahead by a planning officer under delegated powers but was not discussed by the planning committee.


Powys council's Plaid Cymru leader, Elwyn Vaughan, said: "The application was pushed through. By whom and why?"


Powys council said it was investigating a planning breach.


It said listed building consent was granted for the relocation of six headstones in February 2012.


"Works to any graves would require separate consent from the Home Office and the agent was made aware of this requirement," a spokesman said.


"Planning permission has since been granted for the change of use of land to form a parking area and formation of vehicular access in June 2022. This application did not seek to relocate any further gravestones.


"The council has been made aware of concerns raised regarding the works ongoing at Bethany Chapel and have an open enforcement case where it is investigating a breach of condition in respect of planning consents."


The spokesman said the agent and Home Office had been made aware of the concerns.


Dolafon Trust said its priority was "to be good neighbours and support the local community".


A spokesman said: "We are meticulously adhering to the planning consent granted by Powys County Council as we deliver this important restoration.


"The planning permission for the development of the site and its grounds was granted while under previous ownership, and we have since worked closely with the council and other relevant authorities to ensure that our plans are delivered sensitively and appropriately."


It said it was committed to ensuring the work was completed with "respect and compassion" to re-establish the chapel as a place of worship.


Source: bbc.co.uk

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