Families hit out at Torfaen graveyard rules

Free Press Series: Danielle Richardson and Emma Quinn (centre) with supporters at Panteg cemetery where the council have a policy against decorations on graves Danielle Richardson and Emma Quinn (centre) with supporters at Panteg cemetery where the council have a policy against decorations on graves

MORE Torfaen residents have waged war with the local authority over plans to strip graves of “over personalisation”.

Torfaen council officials sent out a policy reminder last week giving grave owners and visitors until May 31 to remove any non-regulatory items– namely glassware, stone chippings, windmills, solar lights, fencing, and wind chimes.

After that, decorations not meeting cemetery rules and regulations will be removed by staff, a letter said, 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.

Danielle Richardson has covered her stillborn-son’s grave at Panteg cemetery in decorations for years, she said, including solar lights and windmills.

She said: “It is emotionally important for us to be able to do this. At Christmas we leave toys and presents. My daughter says to me the solar lights mean his stone shines like the stars. She, like us, would be devastated if that were taken away.”

Emma Quinn, from New Inn, also decorates her son’s grave at Panteg. She called it “disgusting and disrespectful”.

The petition was started by the mum of Amber Hartland, who died in 2008 from a rare genetic disorder and is known locally as ‘Cwmbran’s angel’.

Lesley Hartland, who has heavily decorated her daughter’s grave, said: “Her grave means the world to us. It’s all we have left of our little girl.”

An emotional backlash has been particularly strong in Cwmbran where the cemetery has a small corner plot of around 40 children’s graves.

The Argus reported how around 25 people gathered there on Monday, many of whom said they had no intention of removing items themselves.

Kirsty McCarthy said: “All children are different, in death as they are in life. Why should all graves be the same?”

Sam King, who was also behind the petition said it was “heartbreaking” for parents.

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: “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.”

It was also said that concerns had been raised by visitors over items on graves, but a “greater degree of personalisation” would be allowed within the children’s sections at Cwmbran and Llwyncelyn.

The cemetery rules and regulations can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1fJh3vG

To speak to the council’s cemetery officer call 01633 871786.

The petition can be found at http://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/torfaen

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