Borough council orders hundreds of headstones to be repaired

Andover Advertiser: Claire Ridgers-Smith with her sister Davee Ridgers and her son Charlie Ridgers Claire Ridgers-Smith with her sister Davee Ridgers and her son Charlie Ridgers

HUNDREDS of families face having to fork out for repairs to their loved ones’ graves, which have been labelled unsafe by the borough council.

The owners of 488 graves in Basingstoke’s Worting Road Cemetery have been warned that the gravestones will be laid down unless the repairs are carried out within 12 months.

Notices have been attached to the headstones, warning owners that they will be liable if “anyone is injured” by the grave.

The notices say: “Your memorial has been identified as being a potential risk to others as it has failed a memorial stability test.

“As the owner of the grave, you are responsible for the repair and maintenance of the memorial and may be liable should an accident occur or if anyone is injured...If no action is taken to repair this memorial within the next 12 months, the Authority may lay the memorial down.”

The Worting Road Cemetery currently contains more than 10,000 graves and 4,822 of these were tested in a recent health and safety check. Of these, around 10 per cent – 488 – failed the test.

Tim Boschi, head of community services at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, said the local authority has contacted families who own unsafe memorials, advising them to repair the gravestones.

He said: “We are committed to ensuring that the Worting Road Cemetery remains safe for all visitors and those who work there. We, therefore, have a periodic programme of memorial safety inspections.

“The testing of the graves was carried out by an independent company that specialises in memorial safety and checks for stability without using excessive force.

“All those memorials found to be in an unstable condition have been temporarily supported in order to minimise the risk.

“It is the grave owners’ responsibility to ensure that their memorials are stable and in a good state of repair.

“We are contacting families where memorials have been found to be unsafe, and are advising them to contact a monumental mason. We appreciate the distress and upset that this might cause, but we need to take this approach so that the cemetery remains a safe place.”

Among those told that their gravestone was unsafe is the family of David Ridgers, a dad from South Ham, Basingstoke, who has been buried in the cemetery for 24 years.

His family believe it was the recent safety test itself that made the grave unstable. Claire Ridgers-Smith, who was just two when her father passed away in 1990, said she was shocked and angry when she spotted the notice on a recent visit to the cemetery.

The 25-year-old, of Hatch Warren, Basingstoke, said: “We visit dad constantly and his gravestone has always been in very good condition. The grave certainly wasn’t unstable before they checked it by grabbing it and shaking it. My mum, Stacey Dawe, was incredibly upset.”

After the family appealed to the council, and raised concerns that the grave was damaged during the test, the borough agreed to fund the repairs. But the family say the whole experience has been a nightmare.

Claire said: “It has been horrendous. We feel the way we have been treated has just been appalling.”

Comments (11)

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12:45pm Sat 17 May 14

Cynical Reader says...

Health and Safety gone mad - again!
Who are these Jobsworths? And we are all paying for this nonsense.
Health and Safety gone mad - again! Who are these Jobsworths? And we are all paying for this nonsense. Cynical Reader
  • Score: -21

1:03pm Sat 17 May 14

RgPostcode says...

Why would you want your loved ones grave looking ratty?
Why would you want your loved ones grave looking ratty? RgPostcode
  • Score: 22

1:13pm Sat 17 May 14

Cynical Reader says...

I don't. But I don't need some Council official to tell me it's unsafe.
It is very sad that some graves are unkempt, but are they really going to suddenly fall down and injure someone?
I don't. But I don't need some Council official to tell me it's unsafe. It is very sad that some graves are unkempt, but are they really going to suddenly fall down and injure someone? Cynical Reader
  • Score: -19

4:37pm Sat 17 May 14

ELLIS17 says...

This matter has been handled appalling by the Borough Council, apart from the fact we are all paying for this nonsense, Health and Safety gone mad again.
So the Council has written to relatives of those buried in the cemetery to advise them of the alleged problems with their memorial stones, hopefully they have written to the right people and not to some who had responsibility but has since died. But what happens where either nobody can be contacted or those who can be found lack the funds to make these repairs? Is the council`s next step going to be, to remove all these memorials and leave the graves unmarked?
Lets have some common sense applied and some leadership from the council`s executive on this issue instead of the usual hide behind Health & Safety shield or we cannot discuss matters due the Data Protection Act.
This matter has been handled appalling by the Borough Council, apart from the fact we are all paying for this nonsense, Health and Safety gone mad again. So the Council has written to relatives of those buried in the cemetery to advise them of the alleged problems with their memorial stones, hopefully they have written to the right people and not to some who had responsibility but has since died. But what happens where either nobody can be contacted or those who can be found lack the funds to make these repairs? Is the council`s next step going to be, to remove all these memorials and leave the graves unmarked? Lets have some common sense applied and some leadership from the council`s executive on this issue instead of the usual hide behind Health & Safety shield or we cannot discuss matters due the Data Protection Act. ELLIS17
  • Score: -19

6:12pm Sat 17 May 14

Mighty Antar says...

A legislative failure to get to grips with "no win no fee" solicitors and excessive payouts for personal injury claims is as much to blame as the rather dubious claim of health & safety gone mad. I don't know if there has been any change of policy with the council or their procedures on this site, but maintenance of monuments and memorials has always been under whatever terms the owner of the cemetery agrees with the person who purchased the plot. More often than not this is entirely at the expense of the owner. Common sense would dictate if a stone gravestone moves if you knock it, then it propbably isn't safe - would you really want one falling on a child or someone tending another grave? Of course unsafe headstones should be removed if nobody is left to pay for the work - the vast majority of graves in this country are unmarked!
A legislative failure to get to grips with "no win no fee" solicitors and excessive payouts for personal injury claims is as much to blame as the rather dubious claim of health & safety gone mad. I don't know if there has been any change of policy with the council or their procedures on this site, but maintenance of monuments and memorials has always been under whatever terms the owner of the cemetery agrees with the person who purchased the plot. More often than not this is entirely at the expense of the owner. Common sense would dictate if a stone gravestone moves if you knock it, then it propbably isn't safe - would you really want one falling on a child or someone tending another grave? Of course unsafe headstones should be removed if nobody is left to pay for the work - the vast majority of graves in this country are unmarked! Mighty Antar
  • Score: 17

9:34pm Sat 17 May 14

Cynical Reader says...

Next time I visit my family graves, I shall wear satety boots, a hard hat and a Hi-viz jacket.
Next time I visit my family graves, I shall wear satety boots, a hard hat and a Hi-viz jacket. Cynical Reader
  • Score: -14

11:23am Sun 18 May 14

Peter H. says...

Cynical Reader wrote:
I don't. But I don't need some Council official to tell me it's unsafe.
It is very sad that some graves are unkempt, but are they really going to suddenly fall down and injure someone?
With nearly 500 graves needing repair, clearly some people do need to be told.

There have been 8 fatalities caused by falling gravestones, the last being a five year old boy. Dozens more have been injured; mainly to hands and feet.

Responding to requests from Cemetery owners, the Dept. of Justice issued guidelines. They stress that the risks are very slight and that any action taken should be ‘sensitive’ ‘proportionate’ and ‘reasonable’.

The council have given families a year to make repairs, which most people would regard as reasonable.
[quote][p][bold]Cynical Reader[/bold] wrote: I don't. But I don't need some Council official to tell me it's unsafe. It is very sad that some graves are unkempt, but are they really going to suddenly fall down and injure someone?[/p][/quote]With nearly 500 graves needing repair, clearly some people do need to be told. There have been 8 fatalities caused by falling gravestones, the last being a five year old boy. Dozens more have been injured; mainly to hands and feet. Responding to requests from Cemetery owners, the Dept. of Justice issued guidelines. They stress that the risks are very slight and that any action taken should be ‘sensitive’ ‘proportionate’ and ‘reasonable’. The council have given families a year to make repairs, which most people would regard as reasonable. Peter H.
  • Score: 20

10:44pm Sun 18 May 14

Cynical Reader says...

Thank you, Peter H, I stand corrected, and apologise to those who have been injured or worse.
My family's last two memorials were laid flat. Perhaps it is time to insist on this..
Thank you, Peter H, I stand corrected, and apologise to those who have been injured or worse. My family's last two memorials were laid flat. Perhaps it is time to insist on this.. Cynical Reader
  • Score: 6

10:34am Mon 19 May 14

Peter H. says...

Cynical Reader wrote:
Thank you, Peter H, I stand corrected, and apologise to those who have been injured or worse.
My family's last two memorials were laid flat. Perhaps it is time to insist on this..
No thanks needed, but appreciated anyway :)

When I saw a similar story appear last year in the national press, it was presented as 'snooping jobsworth council workers intruding upon families grief', that 'checks would be made every year' and 'families forced to remove offending stones'. One paper (guess which) even suggested it was an EU directive. Utter tosh of course, but with bonkers reporting like that, people's reaction was understandable.

Tabloid 'elf & safety gone mad' type stories like to inflame rather than inform, which is why the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) now run an excellent 'Myth Busters' service on their website. It's worth discovering the reality behind these misleading stories.

My grandmother is buried in that cemetery and I know she'd be heartbroken if her gravestone injured a child, so I'm grateful the council did these tests to prevent that.

I can't see anything unreasonable about this; perhaps some bloody-minded individuals will complain demanding we pay for the upkeep of their property, but that's just them shirking their responsibility.
[quote][p][bold]Cynical Reader[/bold] wrote: Thank you, Peter H, I stand corrected, and apologise to those who have been injured or worse. My family's last two memorials were laid flat. Perhaps it is time to insist on this..[/p][/quote]No thanks needed, but appreciated anyway :) When I saw a similar story appear last year in the national press, it was presented as 'snooping jobsworth council workers intruding upon families grief', that 'checks would be made every year' and 'families forced to remove offending stones'. One paper (guess which) even suggested it was an EU directive. Utter tosh of course, but with bonkers reporting like that, people's reaction was understandable. Tabloid 'elf & safety gone mad' type stories like to inflame rather than inform, which is why the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) now run an excellent 'Myth Busters' service on their website. It's worth discovering the reality behind these misleading stories. My grandmother is buried in that cemetery and I know she'd be heartbroken if her gravestone injured a child, so I'm grateful the council did these tests to prevent that. I can't see anything unreasonable about this; perhaps some bloody-minded individuals will complain demanding we pay for the upkeep of their property, but that's just them shirking their responsibility. Peter H.
  • Score: 19

10:36am Mon 19 May 14

JJ38JJ says...

Seems like the council are offering a free service if the owners don't want to do it or pay for it themselves. And yet still some people complain.
Seems like the council are offering a free service if the owners don't want to do it or pay for it themselves. And yet still some people complain. JJ38JJ
  • Score: 12

1:08pm Tue 20 May 14

Peter H. says...

JJ38JJ wrote:
Seems like the council are offering a free service if the owners don't want to do it or pay for it themselves. And yet still some people complain.
True.

And if an accident did occur or if a stone simply fell over and broke, they would be the first to complain that 'the council didn't warn us'.

Damned if you do....
[quote][p][bold]JJ38JJ[/bold] wrote: Seems like the council are offering a free service if the owners don't want to do it or pay for it themselves. And yet still some people complain.[/p][/quote]True. And if an accident did occur or if a stone simply fell over and broke, they would be the first to complain that 'the council didn't warn us'. Damned if you do.... Peter H.
  • Score: 8

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