Memorandum by Pendle Borough Council (CEM
1. The Borough of Pendle is situated in
Northeast Lancashire between Burnley and the Yorkshire boundary
and covers some 169.52 sq kms with a population of approximately
2. There are six municipal cemeteries within
the Borough, which date from 1,860 and currently contain 40,600
burials. At the present time the Authority carries out an average
of 200 interments per annum.
3. There are a number of problems that are
currently being encountered by Burial Authorities but within Pendle
the most serious and pressing is one of the SAFETY OF MEMORIALS
and its long term effect financially, as an historical resource
and as a liability.
4. As the committee will be aware there
have been over the past few years a number of fatalities particularly
involving children who have been playing in cemeteries.
5. Whether it is right to play in an designated
for the remembrance of the departed is not in this instance an
issue. However, the fact is that Local Authorities have to look
to the safety of all who use, or enter their facilities, under
the Health and Safety at Work Act, whilst "grave owners"
may not appreciate their responsibility to inspect and maintain
memorials once they have been erected.
6. One of the main areas of concern is encountered
when a memorial is found to be unsafe. What should be done to
render it safe?
(a) Immediately lay it down.
7. At present if the memorial is of a modern
construction the laying it down on surrounding turf is not a major
problem. However problems do arise in that:
(a) A family cannot be contacted as they
have moved and not bothered or forgotten to have the cemetery
records altered. (No legal responsibility to ensure grave records
(b) If the family are contacted they accuse
the Local Authority of legalised vandalism even though photographic
evidence may be available.
(c) Families then plead poverty, cannot pay,
or simply refuse to pay.
8. With larger memorials there are additional
problems to those mentioned above in 7a, b and c.
(a) Larger memorials present other problems
in that because of their size and weight they cannot be laid down.
These have to be labelled as dangerous and a specialist contractor
employed to make them safe. In the meantime unscrupulous claimants
make false claims knowing a memorial is unsafe.
(b) Recovery of any financial expenditure
is in these cases almost impossible as the families will have
died out or do not wish to know even if they can be contacted.
9. Carrying out work to make safe memorials
often results in the media sensationalising what an Authority
is attempting to achieve by carrying out its duty of care.
10. On the other hand if the Authority does
nothing and there is an accident it is again castigated within
the same press for its lack of safety procedures.
11. In both instances the Authority looses
out and is held responsible, even though it may have informed
grave owners of their responsibilities.
12. When a grave is purchased (in most instances
this is when a bereavement takes place) paperwork is sent to families
at a time when they are extremely distressed following a death.
All that is paramount is to have a memorial erected to the memory
of a loved one. Little or no thought is given to problems in the
13. There is at present no national/local
standards/specifications for the installation and erecting of
memorials that can be used to guarantee safety.
14. The responsibility for safety within
a municipal cemetery is that of the Local Authority and safety
checks are now a fact of life in that in order to reduce the liability
for any damage caused to a third party a fully documented inspection
has to be carried out on an annual basis.
15. This safety check should be done by
trained employees or contractors and will be at the cost of the
Authority even though the responsibility for a memorial is that
of the grave owner.
16. In all instances the cost of safety
work can be out against a grave for recovery at a future date.
However the chances of this actually occurring (as previously
stated) are very slim.
17. In many cases memorials that are dangerous
also tend to be of historical importance to a town. Such a memorial
if removed will bring unprecedented rebuke.
18. Within Local Authorities there are also
CLOSED CHURCHYARDS that have been passed to the Authority for
19. In many instances these churchyards
have memorials that predate most Local Authority cemeteries, they
may also contain war memorials or war graves.
20. Whose responsibility are these memorials?
The church if still in existence the Parish or Diocese, War Graves
21. As the Local Authority has assumed responsibility
for the churchyard it is the Authority that normally picks up
the responsibility for these areas. However if it wishes to remove
a memorial it will still have to apply for a faculty.
22. The body granting the faculty will not
however provide financial assistance towards maintaining a towns
historic record in stone.
23. Local Authority cemeteries are on the
whole maintained to a high standard. However, problems do arise
where conversions to lawn type cemeteries have occurred, some
memorials were not altered incorrectly making them inherently
unsafe. In some areas where memorials were not altered these areas
have to be maintained by hand.
24. Local Authority cemeteries are facing
a crisis in that room for expansion is not being catered for within
a majority Local Plans.
25. Some Authorities are in the position
of having additional burial grounds or extensions to existing
facilities thanks to the foresight of planners in days gone by.
26. Unfortunately there are cases where
this land has been used for other purposes over the years (ie
grazing) and is now considered to be part of the green belt or
an area of public open space because Authorities have not informed
27. When time comes to bring this land onto
use as a burial ground opposition is met because planning permission
is required for change of use.
28. The financial burden placed on Local
Authorities in respect of safety from a memorial point of view
is becoming intolerable. In addition the problems of additional
burial space, suitable land and laying out costs provide Burial
Authorities with unprecedented financial problems.
29. The fact that the recovery costs for
carrying out inspections cannot be made means that in many instances,
residents living in one authority subsidise the maintenance of
memorials for people living in another authority, or even in other
countries or, in many instances for families that have died out.
30. Burial fees cannot be high enough to
meet all the requisites of a burial ground ensuring sufficient
funds are available to carry out additional elements such as safety
work and the provision of new burial grounds.
31. Even if they could the fees would be
so high that usage of a cemetery would cease, income would be
non existent and Authorities would still be expected to maintain
the burial ground.
32. With a majority of churches now relinquishing
their responsibilities in respect of churchyards these are becoming
the responsibility of Local Authorities and therefore placing
an added financial burden on the local taxpayer.
33. Local Authorities now have to find finances
not only for routine cemetery maintenance but also for the added
burden of safety inspections, memorial repairs, increased insurance
premiums and in many instances the provision of new burial grounds.
34. The recovery of debt on a grave prior
to a future interment is extremely difficult to administer and
does present the cemetery official with a dilemma when confronted
with a situation that has to be remedied to everyone's satisfaction
within a few hours.
35. In most instances a family arranging
a burial will be unaware that there is an outstanding debt on
a grave. To be informed prior to a burial that a debt is payable
is extremely insensitive and can bring authorities into conflict.
36. It is therefore essential that funding
be made available not only for initial survey work but also for
memorial repairs and administration from an outside or centrally
37. In addition any Government must be able
to provide Local Authorities with capital funding for the purchase
and layout of new burial grounds of legislation and funding for
the reuse of existing burial grounds.
38. As part of the expected maintenance
regime of a cemetery the inspection, identification and making
safe of potentially dangerous memorials is one of the most important
39. It is also one of the most problematical
from a public liaison point of view and financial resource in
respect of making safe, repairs and insurance premiums.
40. It is therefore essential that:
(a) Some form of external funding which will
off set the increased financial burden being incurred by Burial
Authorities carrying out inspections and safety measures.
(b) A national standard in respect of carrying
out safety inspections be produced.
(c) A national standard specification for
memorialisation and installation be produced.
(d) A national performance indicator be produced
for monitoring cemetery inspections.
(e) That Burial Authorities should be informed
as part of a statutory duty when grave owners change addresses.
41. In respect of maintaining burial facilities
(a) Funding from Central Government should
be provided for new Burial facilities, and/or legislation should
be forthcoming that will allow the re-use of existing burial grounds.