Emotions still run high after decision on Skegness cemetery

Serina Pickering at the graveside of her daughter. ANL-170607-091627001
Serina Pickering at the graveside of her daughter. ANL-170607-091627001

A compromise that overturns proposals to force people to remove mementoes from the graves of loved ones in Skegness is not the victory it seems to be, according to one bereaved man.

Councillors were applauded as proposals to allow a space the width of the grave and two foot deep at St Mary’s Cemetery in Winthorpe for “small and safe” items such as soft toys and teddies were announced.

Coun Maggie Gray, who headed a special working group who met families following uproar when notices went up stating items would be removed on May 1 in line with cemetery policy, told the meeting of Skegness Town Council the task of managing the expectations of grieving families and friends “was always going to be difficult”.

She said: “The council has a duty to ensure that the cemetery is a safe place for mourners, visitors and those who work for the council.

“The council has a duty to ensure that all graves are accessible and to maintain the cemetery in good order.

“The council has obligations to its staff to ensure a safe working environment, including one free from abuse, bullying and harassment and ensure the running costs are reasonable and sustainable.

“To achieve the compromise between meeting the council’s duties and obligations and the wishes of the families we met, it is proposed an area the width of the grave and 2ft deep, usually eight square feet, can be used by families to leave small and safe mementoes such as soft toys and teddies.

“This area can also be used to plant annual bedding plants if desired.

“If this area has mementoes, is weeded and kept clean and tidy and otherwise complies with the regulations it will not be touched by council staff.”

Bryan Hall, whose wife and grandson are buried in the cemetery, claimed people had been ‘misled’ by the compromise.

He said: “I have a copy of the old rules and a 4ft by 2ft space was always available for items to be put on the grave.

“We’ve been offered something that we already have.

“When people realise this I’m afraid there will be more tears.“

Serina Pickering, who’s baby daughter Brittany was buried in the children’s cemetery 17 years ago said: “I get to keep my stuff on but have to move the fencing. I’m happy to move that though.

“The decision showed us not to give up and a nice plus is I made some new friends.”

During the meeting the council apologised for the way the matter had been handled.

Claims items on graves had been removed or damaged were raised and it was suggested animals or the wind could be responsible.

It was also claimed there had been rude exchanges between staff tending the graves and members of the public.

However, Coun Mark Anderson, who left the meeting after the debate, said: “We’ve done enough hammering grieving people. I would like to see a mediator to oversee and help resolve this issue and some staff training.”

Accused of “grandstanding” by a councillor, he said: “I’m not grandstanding. I’m trying to help staff and grieving residents by bringing mediators in and training for the staff.

“I’m elected to help Skegness.”

For the full story, see Wednesday’s Skegness Standard.