Decision Maker: Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Decision status: For Determination
Is Key decision?: Yes
Is subject to call in?: No
Updated Management and Safety of Memorials
Policy applicable to cemeteries within the district
The Customer and Locality Services Portfolio Holder introduced the report with a short story of how he had shown Tim Farron around Castle Street graveyard noting the various notable individuals who had been laid to rest there. He continued by highlighting the importance of graveyards in representing history, and that he was glad to see the Bereavement Specialist had been brought in to manage them. He concluded by thanking Officers for the excellent report, and informed the Committee that whilst graveyards would become a diminishing problem as more and more people are electing for cremation, they are a great asset and need to be treasured.
The Director of Customer and Commercial Services informed the Committee that they were seeking any views and comments on the Policy. He told Members that the policy sought to ensure cemeteries were safe places for all and provide clarity on the Council’s approach to maintenance and management, which he noted was a legislative requirement. He concluded by directing Members to the Bereavement Specialist for any questions.
In responding to a question on whether any memorials came under Historic England’s monuments, the Bereavement Specialist confirmed that to his knowledge there were no listed monuments in the cemeteries that the Council owned. He continued by noting that there were listed memorials but these areas were maintained by the Council while the land remained owned by other groups for example in closed churchyards. He concluded by reassuring the Committee that no works would be undertaken without taking the historic value into account.
Members followed this by querying who would bear the cost where a grave or memorial owner could not be identified. The Bereavement Specialist responded by informing the Committee that where an owner could not be identified then the Council would bear the cost of the maintenance works, with all works being reversible should the owner appear in future.
Members also raised questions regarding the level of publicity for the policy changes, the Bereavement Specialist responded confirming that publicity was a key part of the work they were doing and that there were plans for social media updates as well as physical notices in the cemeteries. He signposted Members to Section 5 of the Appendix for information on publicity.
In responding to a question on removal of unsightly containers at paragraph 6.1, the Bereavement Specialist informed the Committee of the dangers of glass containers and confirmed that these would only be removed when broken or defaced. And in response to a question on why flowers could not be planted, he responded noting that plastic and metal planters were permitted, but the maintenance regime of the cemeteries did not permit ground planting as it can affect the surrounding ground.
Members concluded by noting that inevitably some people would be upset with the changes, but that they were ultimately being made in the best interests of all parties and to comply with legislative requirements.
RESOLVED – That Cabinet be recommended to approve the Management and Safety of Memorials Policy.
Report author: Vicky McDonald
Publication date: 28/10/2021
Date of decision: 27/08/2021
Decided at meeting: 27/08/2021 - Overview and Scrutiny Committee