Inspections will make cemeteries a safer place

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Inspections will make cemeteries a safer place

Following advice to all local authorities, Cheltenham Borough Council will be beginning a rolling programme of memorial safety inspections at Charlton Kings and Bouncers Lane cemeteries next month. The advice comes from national regulatory body, the Health and Safety Executive and the purpose of the work is to identify any memorials which are unstable and pose a risk to the public. In the last decade, there have been accidents involving unsafe memorials in other parts of the country.

A team of fully trained staff will be carrying out the inspections from February 2008. Prior to this, detailed information about the work, including the full memorial testing policy, will be available in a number of locations including: the cemetery office on Bouncer's Lane, the council website www.cheltenham.gov.uk and the reception areas at the Municipal Offices, Swindon Road recycling centre and Citizens Advice Bureau. Public notices will also be on display around the cemeteries. In addition, people can telephone 01242 244245 for information and advice.

The testing will involve a combination of a visual inspection, a hand pressure test and, where appropriate, use of a handheld electronic testing device. The council will make every attempt to contact grave owners or their next of kin if their memorial has failed the inspection. This will only be possible if current contact details are held and to check this, people can contact the cemetery office.

Any memorial that has failed the safety test will be cordoned off or temporarily strapped to a wooden post in order to make it safe. If the headstone is in immediate danger of collapse, it will be carefully laid flat within the grave space. A notice will be attached to all memorials that have failed the test and repairs have to be made by grave owners within twelve months from the date of inspection. Any memorials that are not repaired will be permanently laid down in a caring and sensitive manner, with its inscription remaining visible.

Garry Bowles, cemetery manager said: ‘’I appreciate that this is a sensitive issue as memorials are a lasting tribute to loved ones. We are however committed to ensuring that our cemeteries are a safe place for visitors, staff and contractors. We will do everything we can to offer help and advice during this time.’’

Councillor Chris Ryder, cabinet member for quality of life said: ‘’Safety for all those visiting Cheltenham’s green open spaces, including our two cemeteries is the number one priority. Many authorities across the country are carrying out these safety inspections. Any families concerned about the work should contact the team at the cemetery office who are there to help.’’

Posted : 09/01/2008 08:46:09

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