Barnstaple families petition council over graveside tributes

PUBLISHED: 08:20 07 July 2016 | UPDATED: 08:29 07 July 2016

Virginia Hill and son Shaun say they were asked to remove flowers and sentimental items from the grave of Virginia’s late husband Brian, at Bear Street Cemetery in Barnstaple. Picture: Andy Keeble

Virginia Hill and son Shaun say they were asked to remove flowers and sentimental items from the grave of Virginia’s late husband Brian, at Bear Street Cemetery in Barnstaple. Picture: Andy Keeble

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Hundreds sign after loved ones sent letters asking them to remove flowers and tributes

Bear Street Cemetery in Barnstaple. Picture: Andy Keeble Bear Street Cemetery in Barnstaple. Picture: Andy Keeble

Hundreds of people have signed a petition after families were asked to remove flowers and tributes from gravesides in Barnstaple.

Around 20 families were sent letters by North Devon Council asking them to remove treasured items from the Bear Street Cemetery for ‘safety’ reasons.

Virginia Hill said she was ‘shocked and disgusted’ to receive the letter in January this year – almost three years to the day her husband Brian died.

“We couldn’t believe it when we got the letter,” she said.

Virginia Hill and son Shaun say they were asked to remove flowers and sentimental items from the grave of Virginia’s late husband Brian, at Bear Street Cemetery in Barnstaple. Picture: Andy Keeble Virginia Hill and son Shaun say they were asked to remove flowers and sentimental items from the grave of Virginia’s late husband Brian, at Bear Street Cemetery in Barnstaple. Picture: Andy Keeble

“Brian was a popular man and his grave is regularly attended by family and friends – it’s the only thing we’ve got.

“He had seven children and nine grandchildren and they all want to be able leave flowers at the grave; it means the world to them to be able to come down and speak to their dad.

“They never got to say goodbye to him before he died; we’re still grieving as a whole family.

“I’m devastated and I miss Brian every day; I get bad days when I just want to be with him and when things like this happen, it just makes things worse.”

Bear Street Cemetery in Barnstaple. Picture: Andy Keeble Bear Street Cemetery in Barnstaple. Picture: Andy Keeble

Son Shaun said the grave was well maintained and flowers and tributes did not overspill from the grave area.

“We are down here all the time looking after dad’s grave, cutting the grass and replacing flowers; we’ve even bought our own topsoil and turf,” he said.

“It’s the only place we can pay our respects and speak to dad,” he added.

Last night (Wednesday), a petition signed by nearly 500 people was presented to the council.

A total of 478 people have signed it but the council said 126 of those signatures were inadmissible because they did not provide a postcode or were duplicate.

It urges the council to allow tributes as long as they do not overspill onto the grass.

The council said current cemetery regulations state that the planting on graves should be confined to the headstone area and that no objects should be placed along the length of the grave.

A report to last night’s meeting by Ken Miles, the council’s head of legal services, said: “It is not the case that the council has recently changed its approach and neither is it the case that the council refuse any type of memorial.

“The council just asks that these be placed around the headstone to allow access for maintenance.”

In a statement to the Gazette, the council confirmed it had sent letters to 24 families related to graves in the lawned area of the cemetery. There are 1,845 graves in this area.

It said the petition will be referred to the council’s executive committee for consideration. A decision will then be made on the rules and regulations of the two cemeteries run by the council.

Council leader Des Brailey said: “I would like to provide reassurance that we have no plans to prevent families and friends from placing flowers at the headstones or at the top of their loved ones’ graves.”

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