Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda

Memorandum by Wickham Market Parish Council (CEM 59)

  The Parish Council wishes to respond to your press notice, forwarded to this parish, regarding cemeteries. The information you require actually bears little resemblance to what happens on the ground and it would have been more helpful if greater attention had been given to the roles played by the various authorities which run burial grounds. It is also understood that not all parishes running their own burial grounds have been included in the notification procedure, which will not give as clear a picture as it should.

  Wickham Market cemetery was first brought into being in 1875, with extensions to the ground purchased in 1917 and 1997. The churchyard attached to the parish church is currently being processed for official closure. The cemetery is operated solely by the Parish Council in accordance with the rules and regulations laid out in Charles Arnold Baker's "Local Government Administration". A part-time Assistant Clerk deals with day to day cemetery matters and is paid an honorarium, whilst the Clerk deals with maintenance issues etc. The Parish Council does not employ a gravedigger; undertakers deal with this themselves on behalf of their clients. All fees are charged to the undertaker and these are reviewed annually. Business rates are charged to the Parish Council.

  The income varies year on year depending on the number of burials/interment of ashes, which attract different fees. The Parish Council does not receive any income from other sources, resulting in a significant deficit to the parish each year. Families of non-residents are charged double fees to offset this. As an example, the income/expenditure for 1999/2000 was: Income—£1,428; Expenditure—£7,038

  Maintenance of the cemetery (grass cutting/hedgecutting/tree pruning/rubbish collection) is carried out under contract, currently by the Contract Services Unit of Suffolk Coastal District Council. Other works are carried out as and when necessary; an ongoing expense is that of repair and reinstatement of the access driveway. The purchase of the extension in 1997 is now resulting in further expense to bring it into a condition suitable for burials. The land was purchased for £4,000 plus legal fees of £1,000.

  The cemetery lies on the southern edge of the parish, just outside the built-up area of the village. It enjoys peaceful seclusion, is well-liked by parishioners and on the whole is not prone to vandalism. It is in a good condition. Regular tree and hedge planting is carried out by the parish tree warden, partly for visual reasons and also to aid wildlife.

  Checks have recently been carried out on the safety of memorial headstones, resulting in a significant number being repaired by relatives (where possible). The area of headstone safety and responsibility seems to be very "grey" and requires clarification. This includes the design of modern headstones. A section of the cemetery had memorials removed some years ago to aid maintenance (properly advertised) but most remain from the 1930's onwards, with a few from the late 19th century.

Mrs C J Caudwell

Clerk to the Council

December 2000

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