Sheffield Cathedral, a place for all people
News story

Sheffield Cathedral Media Release: Occupy Sheffield 5 January 2012

 Sheffield Cathedral Media Release: Occupy Sheffield

5 January 2012
For immediate release

The Dean and Chapter of Sheffield Cathedral today issued a final appeal to those occupying Sheffield Cathedral’s churchyard to vacate the site and clear their tents within a week so that the area can be restored to full public use, and the work of the Cathedral continue unimpeded.

Protestors from Occupy Sheffield have been camping on Sheffield Cathedral’s churchyard since 5 November 2011. Although the protestors have never had the Cathedral’s permission to be there, and have repeatedly been asked to leave, the Cathedral has acted generously towards the protest, seeking to hear, along with ecumenical partners, the issues which are being raised.

Reflecting on the Occupy movement’s aims, the Dean of Sheffield, the Very Revd Peter Bradley, said:

“This protest, globally and locally, has brought to wider attention issues of justice, poverty, and inequality, issues which have always concerned us at Sheffield Cathedral.

It has challenged society to think more deeply about how we manage our financial systems, and how we care for those who are vulnerable.

Sheffield Cathedral, in partnership with the Cathedral Archer Project, which works with the homeless and vulnerable in Sheffield, will continue responding to that challenge in the coming months.

However, the presence of Occupy Sheffield in the churchyard has caused disruption to Cathedral’s work.

Services have been interrupted, staff time has been taken up with ensuring public safety on the forecourt, bookings for school visits and for our conference facilities have declined.

As a small organization which receives no government funding and which supports its own charitable work through the Cathedral Archer Project, Sheffield Cathedral cannot afford this continuing drain on its resources.”

 The Dean and Chapter have also noted that there appears to be little public engagement with the protest. The site is often left unattended. Debris has accumulated which is an eyesore and which prevents others from enjoying the area. Strong winds make tents unsafe. There are serious concerns about regular, unattended open fires next to tents stacked full of wood and paper.

The protestors have expressed their intention to continue their protest through 2012, raising concerns that their presence will interfere with the Cathedral’s imminent development programme. The Gateway Project, which includes a new entrance, heating, flooring seating, lighting, and a visitor interpretation scheme, will require full access to the forecourt by building contactors for preparatory work.

The Dean made it clear that there have been numerous previous amicable requests, personally and in writing, for the protest to end, but that these have not seen the protest moving on, even after occupiers set up an alternative site at the former Salvation Army Citadel in Cross Burgess Street. Although it hopes for a sympathetic response from protestors and a peaceful end to the protest, the Cathedral Chapter is prepared to move to legal action to end the illegal trespass if the site is not vacated and cleared within a week.