Who pays for toppled gravestones?

GRAVESTONES in Hutton which were laid flat during topple testing two years ago could be raised up after an appeal by the parish council

GRAVESTONES in Hutton which were laid flat during topple testing two years ago could be raised up after an appeal by the parish council.Councillors are writing to the Chancellor of the Diocese to try to get North Somerset Council to reinstate 50 gravestones it toppled during routine testing.Many villagers were outraged after North Somerset Council uprooted and toppled a number of headstones in September 2005 as part of health and safety work.Villagers said not enough notice was given that the work was being carried out so bereaved relatives did not have enough time to rectify the headstones.The council is now appealing to the chancellor to issue North Somerset Council with a restoration order.Speaking at Hutton Parish Council meeting, clerk Andrew Basterfield said: "North Somerset Council said, not only will it not pay any money to us to reinstate the gravestones, but it is against the law for it to do so."We consider that to be rubbish and I would like to progress to a written submission to the chancellor so he can make a judgement."The council voted unanimously in favour of writing to the Chancellor of the Diocese, Timothy Briden. Mr Basterfield said: "The chancellor has legal standing and he can issue whatever directive he so calls for."He will consider written submissions from us and North Somerset Council and make a decision."The judgement will hopefully be a restoration order or a contribution or help to reinstate the churchyard to its original state."Many bereaved relatives were devastated when they visited the churchyard after the tests had been completed and found many headstones had been laid flat.Residents said they would have preferred the council put warning signs up, or roped off the dangerous headstones so they could get them fixed.But a North Somerset Council spokesman said: "We had diocesan approval to undertake this work and followed the guidelines laid down by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM). "We have been audited three times by the ICCM and an independent body and were told that we followed the guidelines to the letter and carried out the work sympathetically."A decision from the chancellor is expected in September.

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