PLANS to strip Torfaen graves of “over personalisation” have been met with a backlash of emotion from residents.
Torfaen council officials have sent out a reminder of their policy and given grave owners and visitors until May 31 to remove any non-regulatory items – glassware, stone chippings, windmills, solar lights, fencing, and wind chimes.
After that, decorations not meeting cemetery rules and regulations will be removed by staff, it announced in a reminder letter last week, to “preserve the dignity of cemeteries” and prevent health and safety implications for grounds maintenance staff.
But the decision has struck a nerve across the borough, with more than 3,880 people signing an online petition in just four days.
In Cwmbran, there is a small corner plot of around 40 children’s graves – the majority of which are heavily decked out with items including ornaments, teddy bears, balloons and toys, alongside others ruled as prohibited.
Sarah King, who set up the petition with Lesley Hartland and has two children buried at the site, called it “heartbreaking” for parents.
“We have paid lots of money to make it look beautiful, and we maintain it ourselves to keep it that way,” she said. “It’s hard enough to lose a child as it is, without senseless situations like this.”
Her daughter, Brooke, who died six years ago, has a number of items within the memorial area of her grave, including a stone chippings, and a fairy wind chime.
But like others with plots at the ceremony, where around 25 people gathered united in objection yesterday, Ms King said she had no intention of removing items herself.
Many of the protestors said they knew nothing of the regulations before last week.
Cathryn Broad said: “There have never been any signs up here, and my son’s grave has been decorated as it is now for ten years.
“Siblings come here to leave gifts and presents. How can they take that away?”
Kirsty McCarthy said she would be at the cemetery on May 31 to make sure no items were taken
Her step-son, Thomas Davies, eight, said he hoped none of the items he had left would be taken.
Sally Burlow, who has decorated her son’s grave with several windmills, and bright blue stone chippings, added: “There will be absolute uproar if this goes ahead. When I look at Tobi’s grave I see him, full of colour and life.”
Angry comments on the online petition labelled it “utterly disgusting” and “disrespectful to the memories of our little angels”.
But Torfaen council was keen to stress the regulations are not new, and that not all items would be removed.
Councillor John Cunningham, executive member for neighbourhood services, said: “There has been no change to our existing cemetery policies and we are not banning the personalisation of graves in Torfaen.
“The purpose of our recent announcement was to raise awareness of the existing cemetery rules, and to give visitors to our cemeteries a period of notice in which to remove any items that are not permitted.
“The personalisation of graves is a very sensitive issue and we fully understand the need for families to express their love for those who have passed.”
He also said a “greater degree of personalisation” would be allowed within the children’s sections at Cwmbran and Llwyncelyn. The council said there had been recent concerns raised about items on graves in the area.
The cemetery rules and regulations can be viewed at bit.ly/1fJh3vG
For more information, contact the council’s cemetery officer regarding on 01633 871786.
The petition can be found at petitionbuzz.com/petitions/torfaen