Fears access road for new housing will be built on sacred land

Maurice Woods and Robena Brown stand in front of the old school playing field off Chapel Street in Shipdham

Maurice Woods and Robena Brown stand in front of the old school playing field off Chapel Street in Shipdham - Credit: Archant

Villagers fear the access road for a new housing development will run across consecrated ground. 

Up to 36 homes are due to be built on the former school playing field, located south of Chapel Street in Shipdham, near Dereham. 

The site of the old Wesleyan chapel in Shipdham

The site of the old Wesleyan chapel in Shipdham - Credit: Archant

Breckland Bridge, the joint venture partnership between Breckland Council and The Land Group, was granted permission for the scheme in 2020. 

However, while many accept the need for new housing in Shipdham, concerns remain over the fate of a plot at the front of the field, which was once home to a Wesleyan chapel. 

The development's proposed access road would begin along the eastern edge of the old chapel site - which historians claim is sacred land. 

Breckland Bridge said the access had been designed to avoid the section once used as a burial ground, and highlighted that headstones had been removed. 

Maurice Woods and Robena Brown stand in front of the old Wesleyan chapel in Shipdham

Maurice Woods and Robena Brown stand in front of the old Wesleyan chapel in Shipdham - Credit: Archant

But Robena Brown, chairman of Shipdham History Group, feels an existing, double-gated access point should be used instead. 

She said: "In an ideal world, this development - which I don't think anyone has any issues with - would use the access they already have. 

"If they can't, they need to avoid the consecrated ground.

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"It's yet another piece of our local heritage, in a very sensitive part of the village, which is being purposely overlooked."

Maurice Woods, a former district councillor and ex-chairman of the parish council, has been here before. 

He campaigned to protect the very same site back in the 1980s. 

"We don't want this swept under the carpet and forgotten about," added Mr Woods.

"Myself, Robena and other local people are not going to be run roughshod over. This is part of our history. How many more things can we lose?"

The site of the old Wesleyan chapel in Shipdham

The site of the old Wesleyan chapel in Shipdham - Credit: Archant

A spokesman for Breckland Bridge said: "The council has removed the headstones around the old graveyard and these are being carefully stored off site.

"Once the works have been completed, it is the council intention that they will be brought back to the site.

"The site of the road access occupies that part of the site on which the old chapel stood. This was demolished by a previous owner. 

"The road access has been designed specifically to avoid that part of the site which was once used as a burial ground."

The old school playing field site in Shipdham

The old school playing field site in Shipdham - Credit: Archant