Hundreds of gravestones and memorials across Flintshire have found to be unsafe and require safety improvements.
Flintshire County Council is responsible for approximately 20,000 gravestones or memorials of varying shapes and sizes and has a duty to maintain its burial grounds in a good and safe order.
However, due to an absence of records and/or surviving family members, there are now approximately 700 memorials in Flintshire’s cemeteries that are deemed unsafe.
In addition to unsafe memorials, kerb sets which go around the perimeter of some graves, are also falling into disrepair, resulting in potential trip hazards.
All memorial gravestones are tested once every 3 years to ensure safety and stability. Unsafe memorials and gravestones that have become loose or unstable and pose a risk of injury to visitors or employees, are temporarily supported by wooden stakes. The grave owners, where known, are contacted and asked to repair the grave.
However, a more permanent solution is now required due to the increasing number of memorials deemed to be unsafe and costs associated for temporary remedial measures.
Councillors will be asked to approve an alternative and permanent method of making the memorials safe if it is not repaired by the registered grave owner, as well as making dangerous kerb sets safe.
The preferred option is to adopt the ‘digging in’ method to stabilise the memorials. This is a process whereby the memorial is moved from its location at the head of the grave, a hole approximately 18 inches deep is dug, and a part of the headstone is buried in the hole. The hole is then filled with soil, making the memorial stable again. This method allows the majority, if not all the inscriptions on the headstone, to be visible.
Members will also be asked to consider a proposal to address unsafe kerb stones by repositioning them within the structure of the grave.
A report revealed if the Council does not adopt a new approach, supporting each memorial with wooden stakes would cost approximately £5,850 every two to three years.
Deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for Streetscene and the Regional Transport Strategy, said:
“We appreciate that this is an emotive and sensitive subject for families and any work that is carried out will be done respectfully. As time goes on, more and more memorials will sadly fall into disrepair so we must adopt a new policy that allows us to keep our cemeteries safe and accessible to all.”
A decision will be made by Cabinet in the coming weeks.