Hatfield cemetery ornament clearance suspended
PUBLISHED: 07:00 10 August 2018
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Action to remove memorials from graves in a Hatfield cemetery has been suspended while councillors reassess the way forward.
Current regulations dictate that no memorials can be placed on the lawn area around a grave at Lawn Cemetery, on Southway.
But a number of visitors to the Welwyn Hatfield Council cemetery have flouted the rules, by leaving items, such as photographs, ornaments, candles and teddy bears.
After complaints from some visitors that the rules were not being enforced, action was started to remove the items.
But that prompted a backlash from those who want the memorials to stay – with councillors receiving complaints from both sides.
As a result of the tensions and verbal threats, staff no longer visit the cemetery alone.
Videocams are used and telephone calls are recorded.
And this week, councillor Stephen Boulton said work to clear the graves had been suspended.
Cllr Boulton, executive member for environment and planning delivery, told a meeting of the Cabinet that the matter needed to be considered by councillors.
And it was agreed the situation would be explored by the Crematorium Procurement Group so recommendations made to Cabinet.
Cllr Boulton told the meeting that under current regulations memorials are not permitted on the lawn areas at Lawn Cemetery.
However, he said, this does not apply to plots purchased before 2010, which are permitted to have an area – measuring 3ft by 3ft – in front of the plinth.
Cllr Boulton said that while some people wanted large memorials, others wanted simple graves with the main areas as lawns.
And he said that some cemetery users had contacted the council because of the lack of enforcement action that had been undertaken.
He told councillors that complaints had been received from both sides, that security measures had been put in place and that enforcement action had been suspended.
Cllr Fiona Thomson suggested that there may be some confusion as a result of the different regulations for plots purchased before and after 2010.
“It is unfortunate,” said Cllr Boulton.
“When people sign up to have a grave they are told the rules, but in some cases they disregard those rules.”
At the meeting council leader Mandy Perkins said the problem may be “worse” in this area because there was no alternative.
She said: “This is by no means unique to Welwyn Hatfield.
It’s something that appears to happen wherever there are cemeteries.
“I think where it’s made worse is because of the fact that we are unable to offer anyone an alternative.”
More than 15,000 people have been interred in 3000 graves at the 10-acre Lawn Cemetery, since it opened in 1984.
There are proposals in the draft Local Plan to extend the size of the Lawn Cemetery.
The Cabinet report says that if this goes ahead the Council would look to include more variety in burial options.