COUNCIL chiefs criticised for sending grave mementoes to landfill are to discuss potential amendments to their cemetery personalisation rules this autumn.
Torfaen council sparked fury last month [June] after binning items that had adorned the graves of loved ones for years.
The Labour council enforced cemetery regulations dating back to 2011 following a two-month consultation with residents.
But the local authority may have broken its own rules by binning mementoes such as wind chimes and solar lights without having stored them for collection for a month.
More than 5,000 people signed a petition which called on cemetery workers to leave the grave items alone.
Yesterday[July 28], council officers briefed councillors on the cemetery policy and the way forward at Pontypool Civic Centre.
No decision was made at the seminar, but officers agreed to produce a report on the policy, which could contain amendments to its rules.
Independent Torfaen Cllr, Liz Haynes, endorsed the petition presented to the council last month.
She said: “I have had lots of people come to me crying.
“Having gone to babies’ graves, it’s heart-wrenching and to send them to landfill is sickening.
“There needs to be some very open discussion with people.
“I don’t believe two months was a lot of time.
“I think the consultation has failed in lots of instances.
“I also believe there has been some inconsistencies in the enforcement of rules and regulations.”
During the seminar, council officers said they banned mementoes including glass items for health and safety reasons, as they could injure cemetery workers and the public when graves are maintained.
They added that wind chimes and solar lights were not allowed as they could cause noise and light pollution near properties in Torfaen.
Torfaen council neighbourhood executive member, Cllr John Cunningham, said: “There should be rules. We need to apply them with some sensitivity.
“We have done our best with the consultation.
“I think the message got lost. We never said personalisation is not allowed. It is over personalisation like windmills.
“It gives comfort to some people but it also causes distress to others who want to be there in solitude.”
The report is be presented to a council or cabinet meeting in September or October.
Torfaen council officials had given grave owners and visitors until May 31 to remove any non-regulatory items.
After that, decorations not meeting cemetery rules and regulations would be removed by staff, it announced in a reminder letter earlier this year, to “preserve the dignity of cemeteries” and prevent health and safety implications for grounds maintenance staff.
But the decision 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 have been heavily decked out with items including ornaments, teddy bears, balloons and toys, for years.
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 at the time. “It’s hard enough to lose a child as it is, without senseless situations like this.”
Her daughter, Brooke, who died six years ago, had a number of items within the memorial area of her grave, including a stone chippings, and a fairy wind chime.
Like others with plots at the ceremony, Ms King said she had no intention of removing items herself.