Row over 'insensitive' cemetery safety checks

RELATIVES with loved ones buried in Bexhill cemetery are bracing themselves for a controversial headstone safety-testing campaign.

Thursday, 6th November 2003, 12:46 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th June 2018, 7:49 pm

Angry families in Rye, where the district-wide testing began, are accusing Rother council of insensitive vigour after more than 120 headstones were lowered by testers.

Plot owners must then foot the bill for replacement. Rother is checking cemeteries using a nationally recognised 'hand test'.

A spokesman said the authority was unable to give a definite date for the start of work at Bexhill cemetery as the process elsewhere was taking longer than expected but it would be "within the next week or two."

Rother leader Cllr Graham Gubby says the authority is required to make the checks and denies that it is being undertaken insensitively.

The authority is required to test cemetery memorials to ensure they don't cause a danger and recently announced the programme of checks, designed to identify and eliminate loose headstones and memorials that could fall and injure a passer-by. But eye-witnesses at Rye say far more pressure than is reasonable is being applied to headstones there.

Headstones that are sound are being laid flat as a result.

Both local MPs stepped into the row this week.

Rye and Hastings MP Michael Foster condemned Rother for the 'over the top and unjustified' way in which it handled memorial stone safety.

And he has called on the council to apologise to relatives and reimburse them for the replacement of the stones.

Bexhill MP Greg Barker said: "I'm very concerned over this development. The sanctity and dignity of graveyards is something that should be safeguarded at all costs.

"I hope our public officials see it as their job to preserve the grave stones of people's departed loved ones and not enforce some petty regulations just for the sake of it.

"If there is a genuine problem with dangerous stones I would expect it to be dealt with in a constructive and sympathetic way."