Couple's fury over gravestone 'checks'

PUBLISHED: 04:35 27 July 2006 | UPDATED: 09:39 24 May 2010

A COUPLE have described safety work done at a Worle cemetery as 'horrific'. Noel and Phyllis Hetherington have lived looking over the churchyard at St Martin's Church for 40 years and say they were shocked by the work being done there. The tests at Worle

A COUPLE have described safety work done at a Worle cemetery as 'horrific'.Noel and Phyllis Hetherington have lived looking over the churchyard at St Martin's Church for 40 years and say they were shocked by the work being done there.The tests at Worle are the same as those that sparked controversy in Hutton. Officials check the stability of headstones and lay them flat if they are not considered to be safe.North Somerset Council says tests have now been done at 19 of the 20 closed churchyards in the district.Mrs Hetherington, who lives in Lawrence Close, said: "I thought I could hear a banging noise and then I could see workmen driving poles behind headstones and they put notices on the graves."Another day they were wheeling around the churchyard with a machine, swinging the headstones out and laying them flat."They seemed to be doing so many I was horrified."When I took a walk in the cemetery I saw that the notices on the graves said they had to be put up again by a qualified stonemason."I could see two headstones from the 1800s, they had just been winched out and laid flat. I was really quite upset."The gravestones are part of the area's history."Mr Hetherington said: "They say people could be injured if they fell down but it's horrific what they have done."North Somerset Council spokesman Zoe Briffitt said: "We carried out the work in a sensitive and professional manner."We tried to temporarily stake as many headstones as we could to keep them upright. We have then put up notices saying people have three months to make them safe. We are trying to encourage families to fix them wherever possible."If the headstones are particularly big or in a poor condition, we can't do that."There are a lot of vandalised and damaged memorials and we have gone in, made them straight and tidied them up. In some respects it looks better than it did."l Hutton Parish Council is still fighting a battle with North Somerset Council which it wants to help pay for the churchyard to be restored to what it describes as an 'acceptable standard' after safety checks.The parish council is considering making a complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman about the work carried out there.North Somerset says an independent survey was carried out by an Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management which said all the work at Hutton had been carried out according to guidelines.

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