Topple test law change

PUBLISHED: 07:45 11 May 2006 | UPDATED: 09:15 24 May 2010

THE uproar over gravestones flattened in a village churchyard has persuaded the Government to change the national rules on topple testing in cemeteries. Last year, North Somerset Council was accused of vandalism and desecration when it removed more than 5

THE uproar over gravestones flattened in a village churchyard has persuaded the Government to change the national rules on topple testing in cemeteries.Last year, North Somerset Council was accused of vandalism and desecration when it removed more than 50 gravestones in a closed churchyard in Hutton. The work was carried out under a European health and safety directive.After a campaign led by Hutton parish councillors and Weston MP John Penrose, the Government has declared that laying memorial stones flat 'should be a matter of last resort'.Parish councillors were outraged that families were not properly informed of the planned works at Hutton's St Mary's Church before it took place.Weston MP John Penrose wrote to the constitutional affairs minister Harriet Harman asking for the guidelines to be reviewed.In her reply, Ms Harman has confirmed the problems caused by the inspection in Hutton will be used to form new rules on topple testing.In the letter, Ms Harman wrote: "It was disappointing to hear some families were unaware of and distressed by the action taken, and that in some instances memorials were apparently laid down in a way that created further hazards."I have asked my officials involved in producing new national guidelines to take the experience of this case into account as the work proceeds."Mr Penrose said: "I am pleased the new guidelines are being prepared. "It is important that communities up and down the country are not subjected to the same unnecessary grief and anger as Hutton."Hutton parish Council chairman Steve Cope said: "It is too late for us but hopefully the guidelines will stop the same thing happening in other graveyards around the country."When the new guidelines come into force it will be interesting to see if we can go back to the council with a claim for compensation.

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