‘Council’s gravestone policy must change’ says former Wakefield mineworker

Jim Doyle with his sisters, Patricia Shaw and Sandra Link at Ferrybridge Cemetery.
Jim Doyle with his sisters, Patricia Shaw and Sandra Link at Ferrybridge Cemetery.

A former mineworker said Wakefield Council’s gravestone policy needs to change after his parents’ memorial was laid down flat.

The council – and many others across the country – has a policy of laying gravestones flat if they are deemed to be unsafe.

Families then have to pay a fee to have them set upright again. But Jim Doyle, whose parents are buried at Ferrybridge Cemetery, said Wakefield should make itself the first district to do things differently.

He said: “I was gutted to see it. It’s supposed to be private. I really don’t like it and it’s out of order.

“Wakefield should be the first to stop this. You can’t go around destroying graves when people look after them – it’s heartbreaking.” He said he was not contacted and told the situation before the stone was laid flat. The council said it tries to make contact with relatives before it takes action.

Several families who have seen their loved ones’ headstones laid flat have contacted the Express with their frustration over the past two years.

They raised concerns of distress caused to people who might not be able to afford to have the headstone repaired.

The council said it does not make money from the policy.

Glynn Humphries, the council’s service director for environment and streetscene, said: “It is very important that all our cemeteries are as safe as they can be for all visitors and employees.

“Like many other local authorities we have a program in place to identify headstones that are a safety hazard and there are no plans to change this approach.

“We put temporary supports in place and ask owners to make the necessary permanent repair within 12 months. We are then able to approve the repairs, free of charge.”

He said a number of headstones “weren’t repaired and these have been carefully laid down with the inscription face up”. He added: “We do take great care to make sure that the grave is in no way disturbed. We fully appreciate the sensitivity of working on a loved one’s memorial and steps have been taken to contact the relatives and carry out the necessary safety work in a respectful manner.”