FAMILIES have been left fuming after they were blocked from visiting the graves of loved ones at an historic church.

A heavy padlock has been put on gates leading to the graveyard at the former Old Renfrew Parish Church.

Lindsay McKillop, secretary of Renfrew Community Council, said: “These are sacred grounds but local people will be unable to place Christmas wreaths at gravesides if the lock stays in place.

“People cannot get in to pay their respects.”

Those views were echoed by community council chairman Keith Matthews, who said: “People are unhappy about this. It’s the town’s graveyard and they shouldn’t be denied access to it.”

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission has also expressed disquiet, as the church grounds are home to an official war grave dating from the First World War.

A spokesman told The Gazette: “While we knew the church had been sold, we received no advance warning that access to the churchyard would be restricted and first became aware when a concerned local resident contacted us.

“We are in contact with the relevant parties and are working to restore access for visitors and our staff.”

The Gothic-style church in Renfrew’s High Street had been a place of worship for 150 years but was put on the market after the dissolution of its congregation in 2013.

The Gazette: Renfrewshire North and West MSP Derek Mackay expressed his concerns Renfrewshire North and West MSP Derek Mackay expressed his concerns

In 2017, Prestige Car Specialists Ltd, based in Glasgow, applied to the council for permission to convert the church into nine flats.

The firm told The Gazette it no longer owns the church, as it was sold to another party a few months ago.

Renfrewshire North and West MSP Derek Mackay has called for the site to be 
“treated with respect.”

He said: “Planning permission was granted in 2017 to convert the building to nine flats but this is not yet fulfilled. That said, access should be allowed to the historic graveyard, which – as confirmed by Renfrewshire Council – is still maintained by them, as per tradition.

“Renfrewshire Council are currently pursuing the owner of the Old Parish Church building to have the gates reopened.”

A council spokesperson added: “We have contacted the owner of the church to ensure the gates to the cemetery are re-opened as soon as possible, and remain open, for the public to access and pay their respects.”

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