Fury over Blaenavon cemetery crosses removal sparks rethink
9:20pm Wednesday 10th October 2012 in News
TORFAEN Council has changed its policy on the placement of wooden crosses on graves after accepting the regulations had caused unnecessary upset to bereaved families.
Back in July the we reported that families who had loved ones buried in Blaenavon cemetery were left devastated after the council removed wooden crosses from graves.
Blaenavon resident John Breeze said a wooden cross, which had marked the grave of his daughter Denise for 45 years had been removed, and he could not understand why.
He said: “I was deeply upset that someone would remove the cross. I’m disgusted that the council would do that as the plot is mine.”
He discovered the crosses were being stored in a shed in Panteg and went to collect his daughter’s cross and informed other residents where they were being kept.
He has since been able to place the cross back on his daughter’s grave.
Torfaen council apologised and explained the crosses were removed in error and have since carried out a review of the incident and identified a number of areas where the existing policy could be improved.
The executive member for neighbourhood services Cllr John Cunningham has now approved the changes.
Under the new terms wooden crosses will be allowed to remain indefinitely but the grave owner will have responsibility to maintain the cross. If it falls into disrepair the council will reserve the right to remove the cross but will first write to the grave owner before any action is taken.
Cllr Cunningham said: “I hope the families affected will be reassured that our apology has been more than just words, and their feedback has been followed up with positive action.
“Our existing policy was well-intended, introduced to preserve the dignified appearance of our cemeteries and of course, that is something that we will continue to uphold.
“However, we have recognised that it was also unsympathetic to the feelings of the bereaved, did not account for sufficient communication with grave owners and did not recognise that some people simply cannot afford a permanent stone memorial for their loved ones.
“I’m confident that the changes we have introduced will ensure it doesn’t happen again.”
COMMENT: Change is welcome
IT WAS back in July that we first reported how some Blaenavon families were being left in distress after discovering that wooden crosses on the graves of their loved ones had been removed by the council.
At the time no explanation was forthcoming as to why the crosses, some of which had been on graves in Blaenavon Cemetery for decades, had been taken away.
Nor were relatives told what was happening to the crosses which, as it turned out, were being stored in a shed in Panteg.
We reported the story then because to us it did seem particularly insensitive of the council to take such drastic action without keeping everyone concerned fully informed.
We are delighted to be able to report today that the the council has now seen sense and admitted that the crosses were removed in error.
It has reviewed and amended its policy which, according to the council, was intended to preserve the dignified appearance of its graveyards.
And we commend the council for not only responding to the public outcry but further to apologise for the original actions.
This was a mishandling of a sensitive issue and the council has done well to accept that.
This is a victory for common sense.