Headstone safety checks at Bridlington Cemetery branded ‘legal vandalism’

Council groundsmen have been carrying out safety checks on headstones at Bridlington Cemetery.
Council groundsmen have been carrying out safety checks on headstones at Bridlington Cemetery.

SAFETY checks have been carried out on headstones at Bridlington Cemetery with some being deemed so dangerous they are being laid flat until essential repairs are made.

A team of East Riding of Yorkshire Council groundsmen have spent a week topple testing the 9,000 gravestones at the cemetery, on Sewerby Road as part of health and safety checks which are carried out every five years.

Any unstable headstones have been made safe with supporting wooden stakes, but any where this method was not suitable were laid flat on the ground and the family notified.

But one resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, has slammed the council’s actions as “legal vandalism’ and contacted the Free Press to vent his outrage at seeing what was happening.

“They are pushing them over. They are going around testing them by putting pressure on them and if it doesn’t pass the test they are lying them down.

“It’s not fair on the bereaved families,” he added.

But ERYC area supervisor Ian Donaldson told the Free Press that their actions were essential to save lives.

Mr Donaldson told the Free Press that in the UK over the past 10 years there had been six deaths from people becoming trapped under falling headstones.

According to Mr Donaldson, in 2009 the law was changed to state that metal pins had to be fixed under headstones and sunk into the ground by 10 inches to make them more secure.

But he said they are now finding problems with the older headstones that were not subject to this legislation being dangerously unstable.

“You have children visiting their relatives and swinging on a headstone, it’s dangerous. That’s why these headstone inspections are carried out,” Mr Donaldson said.

“People visiting headstones lift themselves up on them and they may be trapped there for two to five days before anyone sees them.

“We don’t want that on our shift, that’s why we are making sure all the head stones are checked,” he added.

A spokesman for the East Riding of Yorkshire Council said the work was carried out in a “sensitive and appropriate manner” and headstones were only laid flat as a last resort where it had not been possible to ensure their safety by using stakes.

“The Council will be contacting families or deed holders where headstones need attention advising that they can engage a stone mason to carry out the necessary repair works,” he added.

Anyone requiring further information on this can speak to the Council’s cemeteries technical officer on 01482 395587.