Council to debate Hatfield cemetery memorial petition

PUBLISHED: 11:42 14 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:24 14 November 2018

Hatfield Lawn Cemetery. Picture: DANNY LOO

Hatfield Lawn Cemetery. Picture: DANNY LOO

©2018 Danny Loo Photography - all rights reserved

A family has handed a petition to Welwyn Hatfield Council calling for an exception to the rules surrounding memorials on graves.

More than 1,500 people have signed Jade Doherty’s petition seeking to make exceptions for the burial plot of her brother, who was buried at Hatfield Lawn Cemetery in May this year.

The Doherty family asks that a variety of memorials be allowed to remain on his plot prior to permanent memorials being arranged.

They also ask for larger permanent memorials to fit in with their cultural traditions.

In a report of the council’s corporate director, the four main reasons for the petition were outlined.

Hatfield Lawn Cemetery. Picture: DANNY LOOHatfield Lawn Cemetery. Picture: DANNY LOO

The family believe they do not have a choice as there are no other council run cemeteries within the borough where they can have full grave sets.

If they go outside the borough they will pay at least triple the fees and their culture is for family to be buried in the same cemetery.

Their tradition is for full grave sets to “prevent people walking over the grave/disturbing the spirits and for memorabilia to be placed on the grave to represent the person and help keep their memory alive”.

The council has agreed that the matter raised is “an important issue of local concern” and will need to be debated at the full council meeting on Monday, November 19.

In August, the council’s Cabinet agreed to expand the remit of the Cross Party Crematorium Procurement Group to consider and make recommendations to Cabinet on the way forward for grave clearance at the lawn cemetery.

Currently, Lawn Cemetery rules and regulations state that no permanent memorial can be placed on the lawn area of the grave and must be placed on the concrete plinth provided by the council.

Plots purchased prior to 2010 were permitted to have an area 3ft by 3ft in front of the concrete plinth.

The report notes: “Cemetery Services have received concerns from people who visit the cemetery – those that wish to retain the cemetery as a lawn cemetery and those who wish to have the regulations changed so larger memorials are permitted.

“What is not known is if the rules and regulations were relaxed completely, would this create a far greater number of complaints about the loss of a lawn cemetery?

Between February and May 2018, the council sent out letters to some deed holders requesting the removal of memorial items that did not meet the regulations.

This was done section by section with clearance starting on April 3.

Clearance was then stopped on June 14 after concerns were raised by the council’s health and safety department following two verbal threats received by an officer.

About 130 plots in total were cleared.

When the clearance was stopped, there were 21 plots that still required the clearing of memorial items, of which 13 said they would not remove the items.

The council report states: “It is important to note that all applicants sign the application agreeing to abide by the cemetery rules and that they are aware that no memorials, other than those prescribed under the council’s cemetery regulations, will be placed on the grave.

“Some of the deed holders stated they do not have a choice as there are no other cemeteries in the borough where they can have full grave sets.”

There are proposals within the council’s Draft Local Plan (currently under examination) to extend the size of the current lawn cemetery.

If this goes ahead, the council would look to include more variety in burial options, which would include full kerb sets.

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