Video interview: Tributes and memorials at Bear Street Cemetery must be removed within 90 days says North Devon Council

Bear Street Cemetery in Barnstaple. Picture: Tony GussinBear Street Cemetery in Barnstaple. Picture: Tony Gussin

Ultimatums are being issued to families to remove unauthorised tributes from graves at a Barnstaple cemetery.

North Devon Council is writing to 27 people who have added flowers, tributes and covers to graves at Bear Street Cemetery and giving them 90 days to comply with removal.

It says graves in the ‘lawned area’ of the cemetery can only have tributes on or covering the headstone, whereas several cover the length of the grave.

There was outcry in July when families were sent letters asking them to remove memorials and hundreds signed a petition, but in October the council’s executive voted to uphold the regulations.

The council says since then it has done everything it can to act sensitively and take a delicate approach to enforcing the rules, which everyone agreed to when choosing to bury their loved ones at Bear Street.

In January it identified 54 graves in breach of the rules and has spoken to 43 families so far and written to the rest. In total, 27 have complied, 15 have said they would, three said they would not and nine have not responded.

The lawned area has 1,840 graves and is intended to be similar to the ‘war graves look’ – the council says this is so grass cutting and other maintenance can be carried out.

It also said the extra memorials made it difficult for mini diggers to gain access when a grave had to be reopened, for example in the case of family graves.

Mark Drummond, bereavement services manager and registrar at North Devon Council, said people of all abilities needed to visit the cemetery.

He said: “They may be visibly impaired or have difficulty with mobility. So because of the sheer number of covered graves we needed to take some steps.

“It’s difficult because it’s such an emotive subject and we are conscious of that, which is why we are hoping people will take action themselves rather than the council removing them.”

* Have you a memorial at the cemetery the council has asked you to remove? Call us on 01271 345056, email or have your say on our Facebook page