Government seeks closure of Edmonton cemetery as it claims remains ‘unlawfully disturbed’

Enfield Council leader welcomes decision from Ministry of Justice to request all new burials be halted at Tottenham Park Cemetery

Tottenham Park Cemetery in Montagu Road
Tottenham Park Cemetery in Montagu Road

One of the largest Turkish cemeteries in the UK is facing closure after the government said its owners had “repeatedly failed” to make necessary improvements and ensure the safety of burials.

The Ministry of Justice today (11th) announced its intention to apply to the Privy Council for an order requiring burials be stopped at the privately-run Tottenham Park Cemetery in Montagu Road, Edmonton.

This would mean no new burials would be permitted, except where plots have previously been reserved. Visitors to the existing graves would still be allowed.

The move follows two government-ordered inspections which found remains were being unlawfully disturbed during the burial process. The MoJ now says recommendations that no new plots should be excavated or sold, record keeping should be improved, and a survey undertaken to identify existing burials have not been met.

Complaints about the site were first raised by Enfield Council, Tottenham Park Cemetery Action Group, Baroness Meral Hussein-Ece who is part of the group, as well as local MPs.

The cemetery’s co-owner has said in response that the attempt to close the cemetery was being led by people with “personal motives” and that if they were successful in stopping new burials there it would be “a disaster for the community”.

But Mike Freer, the justice minister, said: “The people buried in this cemetery were laid to rest and the repeated disturbance of their remains is not only illegal but a breach of trust.

“I believe it is necessary to seek this closure to ensure that Tottenham Park Cemetery can safely serve its community in future.”

Enfield Council attempted to buy Tottenham Park Cemetery last year to bring it into public ownership, but then-owner Peter Demetriou rejected its offer. He subsequently sold the site to British Turkish businessmen Mustafa Dari and Ersin Savas.

In November, the council accused the cemetery’s owners of “desecrating” graves at the site. Today council leader Nesil Caliskan told the Dispatch: “I have been calling for the closure of it for a long time. It is clear that this site is full and it is outrageous that it continues to be used. We really welcome the MoJ’s decision to take this step.”

Co-owner Mustafa Dari has defended the continuation of burials at Tottenham Park Cemetery. He said: “Any application to close the cemetery will be strongly opposed. This purported intention to closure is motivated by individuals with influence within the Ministry of Justice and the London Borough of Enfield for personal motives that has nothing to do with the cemetery and its current operation.

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“The distractors [sic] are rehashing pre-2019 issues from the then deplorable owners of the cemetery to force the closure and a sale of the cemetery to achieve their own self-interest.

“This is a private cemetery, if it cannot operate, and it presently does so within the law, under strict management to safeguard the graves and those using the cemetery, and from the feedback we are getting, the satisfaction of those who visit the cemetery regularly.

“The closure of the cemetery will be a disaster for the community and the users of the cemetery. A forced sale will put the cemetery into unscrupulous hands looking to shut it down completely and possibly redevelop.”

Under the previous ownership of the cemetery, in 2018, suspected human remains were found, sparking fears that graves were being dug up to make way for new burials. In 2021, Tottenham Park Cemetery Action Group also raised concerns over broken headstones, tyre marks on graves and rat infestations.

Part of the cemetery is leased to Tottenham Park Islamic Cemetery Association (TPICA) which manages burials in the area. The MoJ says it is in contact with the TPICA about the implications of the closure for grave space reserved within their area.

For the government to stop burials at private cemeteries legally it requires an Order in Council. Those are considered by the Privy Council Office and signed by the King.

A council spokesperson said: “Enfield Council welcomes the move by the Ministry of Justice to seek closure of the privately run Tottenham Park Cemetery in Edmonton for new burials although burials in reserved plots would still be permitted.

“Enfield Council has worked closely with the Ministry of Justice for several years to find a solution to the issues at the cemetery and has frequently raised concerns with ministers on behalf of the local community impacted by the management of the site.

“We would encourage residents or anyone who has a connection with the cemetery to share their views on the proposed closure by emailing [email protected] (quoting reference CN/TPC/JAN24) within one calendar month. We would like to reassure members of the public that they will still be able to visit their loved one’s graves during this period.”

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