Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Councillors to discuss enforcing cemetery memorial regulations

A change of emphasis on enforcement concerning memorials left in cemeteries and crematoria in Leeds is to be discussed by senior councillors next week.

The meeting of the executive board at Civic Hall on Wednesday 7 September will see councillors being asked to approve the enforcement of rules and regulations concerning memorials being placed on new graves, cemetery extensions and new cemeteries. It will also ask for approval to develop designated areas in crematoria for memorials to be placed in strewing areas.

The proposals are based on recommendations put forward by councillors on the city development scrutiny board following an inquiry carried out into the issue. The inquiry was held due to the problem of the ever-increasing time required by officers of the council’s parks and countryside service, which maintains cemeteries and crematoria in the city, in effectively maintaining areas around graves and on strewing areas.

Leeds has previously tended not to actively enforce the rules and regulations which were created based on guidelines issued by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM). However the number of memorials being placed around graves means enforcement will now be necessary on new graves, cemetery extensions and new cemeteries in order for machinery used for maintenance to be used most effectively.

The recommendations are to actively enforce the placement of all memorials within the boundaries of grave plots at any new graves in lawned areas while also introducing dedicated areas for all memorials to be left at communal strewing areas outside crematoria.

Such enforcement would enable maintenance to be carried out more effectively as machinery would be able to be used to carry out grass cutting without memorials forming obstacles. In strewing areas the provision of a designated area would prevent the need for memorials to be moved and carefully replaced each time maintenance takes place.

Funeral directors would discuss grave conditions with families and ask them to sign their agreement to adhere to them. However, with the need to respect the sensitivities of a bereaved family of paramount importance, it is recognised that the full implications of these rules and regulations may not be fully understood.

After one month the council would therefore contact the family with a summary of the rules and regulations around grave conditions and memorials as a reminder. If a routine inspection shows the guidelines are not being followed, the council will write to the family explaining the position and asking them to resolve the problem.

If the problem remains, a more formal letter will follow along with a copy of the regulations giving the family another month to take action. If this is still not taken the family will be notified that the items which contravene the guidelines will be removed by council staff one month later and stored. Once this has happened the family will then be written to a final time informing them they have two months to collect the items before they are disposed of.

In crematoria strewing areas, the current practice of flowers and memorials being left across the area will be altered to instead allow memorials to be left together in a designated communal space.

Leeds City Council executive member for leisure Councillor Adam Ogilvie said:
“This is obviously a very sensitive topic and we would like to stress we have thought long and hard before making this decision on enforcement now being necessary.

“Our officers are facing more and more memorials being left and it is proving to be a major problem which is only getting worse in terms of the time it takes them to mow the lawns in our cemeteries and crematoria.

“While sterner action was suggested by the Scrutiny Board, we have decided to take a sensitive approach. Applying these enforcement rules on new graves and introducing communal strewing areas would help resolve the problem and this would be communicated in a respectful way so that everyone is fully aware of the position.”


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