MONMOUTHSHIRE County Council has reversed its decision to charge a grieving family double for a burial plot, following criticism from relatives, local politicians, and the media.

Expert forager and former mayor of Chepstow Henry Ashby died at the end of July, aged 63.

Mr Ashby was a well-known forager for more than 50 years, supplying some of the country’s top restaurants with fresh ingredients taken straight from the hedgerow, coast or forest floor.

As reported on Friday in the Argus, Mr Ashby’s widow Tanya said Monmouthshire County Council had told her, as his coffin would be a few inches wider than a normal size, they would have to charge double the usual £1,500 cost to bury him – a policy she branded “just awful”.

Mr Ashby’s brother had to cash in an ISA to pay the charges, and said last week: “If Tanya didn’t have family to help out, we’d be faced with the prospect of a former mayor of Chepstow having a pauper’s funeral.”

David Davies MP and Nick Ramsay AM had also raised concerns about Monmouthshire’s policy.

In the wake of widespread criticism, Monmouthshire council’s chief executive Paul Matthews announced on Tuesday that the local authority would be reimbursing the Ashby family the additional £1,500 they had paid. The authority’s previous position had been to follow its burials policy.

“It was with great sadness that I heard of Henry’s passing,” Mr Matthews said in a statement on Tuesday. “He was such a character in so many ways and a fantastic ambassador for the town he loved and the wider county of Monmouthshire. It would never have been our intention to distress his family at this time and we have corrected our position.”


Reacting to the council’s U-turn, Mrs Ashby said it was “very good news”.

“But like I’ve said before, to charge that for a person who had done so much [for the town] was ridiculous.”

Mr Allan Ashby said: “I hope this will give the council pause for thought to review its policy.”

The small print of Monmouthshire’s list of burial fees states: “Coffins in excess of 28 inches wide will require two grave spaces and will incur the additional charge for the second space as per the charges above.”

None of the four other local authorities in the Gwent region employ such a policy in their cemeteries.

A spokeswoman for Newport City Council said there may be a nominal fee to cover the labour costs of widening a plot.

This is also true of Blaenau Gwent, where the council may make “an appropriate charge due to loss of that burial space”. But in Caerphilly county borough and Torfaen, there would be no extra charges for burying a wider coffin.