Compromise on Skegness cemetery – but there will still be tears say bereaved

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

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: “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.”

The announcement was applauded by many of the campaigners present at the meeting who had fought to be allowed to leave momentoes on graves.

However, 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 is one of the group happy with the result.

She and a group of friends plan to release balloons to mark the birthday of her daughter on July 27 and 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.”

The Standard asked Steve Larner, town clerk, to clarify the situation. He said: “Prior to 2016 the council’s official policy did not have a designated area and only permitted fresh flowers to be placed on the headstone or where the headstone would stand.

“In 2016 this area was clarified to be a 4ft x 2ft area. The grave was maintained by the council and it was expected that the area would be sufficiently clear for cutting and council staff would move any items in order to cut.

“Councillors reported that those they talked to were not aware of the regulations. A small number of graves started to become completely covered with items, which triggered the whole discussion about enforcement.

“The new regulations have made the following compromises and have completely clarified how the regulations would be enforced should this be necessary, as this was not previously clear.”

Regulations now state:

1 Families will now be able to plant annual flowers, leave teddy bears, small toys, plastic flowers and other gifts and mementoes in the designated area which were previously not permitted. There will be a few restrictions, for example if something is offensive or dangerous.

2 As long as the family keep this area neat and tidy, then the council will not touch this designated area. Families expressed that they did not want the Council to touch their items.