How a UK cemetery approaches monument & headstone safety

You may have read about a NSW local government authority's efforts to manage risks associated with hazardous monuments and headstones, and how it had to pull back when citizens started to complain. I have some sympathy for the officers concerned; I have been there, done that. There is no easy way forward on this sensitive issue, but here's how the local Council in Solihull (UK) approaches it. Note that it starts with the media...

Thousands of gravestones, many much older than any in Australia,  across Solihull have to be checked every five years to make sure that they don't pose any risk to public safety, a new report reveals.

The rolling review of the borough's memorials - the largest of which are more than 2.5 metres tall - is designed to identify stones in danger of toppling over or similar concerns.

Papers considered by councillors last week set out the latest policy for managing structures at Widney Manor, Robin Hood and Woodlands Cemetery. There are around 20,000 memorials spread across the three sites.

By law, the local authority has a responsibility to ensure that the monuments -which include headstones, crosses, railings and posts - are safe.

Where a site has been deemed dangerous, possible owners are contacted and asked to remedy the monument safe. If it has not been possible to trace surviving relatives, the council will cover the costs of the repairs.

Julie Williams, operational manager for cemeteries and crematoriums, said the latest policy updated a document adopted in 2009.

"The issues are going to be where families have moved away or the owner has passed away themselves," she said.

Cllr Glenis Slater, leader of the Lib Dem group, said there would increasingly be cases where it was "impossible" to track anybody down.

More information on managing headstones in Solihull

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