Campaign group rally to stop council toppling headstones

'Devastated' families and supporters have urged the council to use different methods to ensure the safety of tombstones.

Campaign group rally to stop Renfrewshire Council toppling headstones in local cemeteries

Campaigners have demonstrated outside a town council in protest over the toppling of headstones in local cemeteries.

On Thursday morning, around 30 members and supporters of the Friends of Hawkhead Cemetery group gathered at Renfrewshire House in Paisley to hand over a petition signed by around 1,600 people.

The group claim there are alternative methods of dealing with the issue of Scottish Government regulations regarding headstones.

The local authority’s own figures show that more than 1,500 headstones in Renfrewshire cemeteries have already been toppled and left to lie flat on the ground.

The petition calls for the local authority to stop toppling headstones and instead use the methods employed by other councils – like staking, repairing or sinking headstones further into the ground – to make the stone memorials safe.

But officials were adamant that their methods of mass toppling of headstones should continue, claiming that other ways of dealing with the issue weren’t ‘feasible’.

Protesters outside Renfrewshire Council headquarters

The group say many families have been upset when they have turned up at family graves to find headstones had been toppled.

Chairman of Friends of Hawkhead Cemetery, Des Barr said the protest was a success and the response to the campaign has been “absolutely fantastic.”

He accused the council of being “overzealous” in dropping the headstones.

Des said: “We fully support the Scottish Government ensuring that headstones are safe. But Renfrewshire Council has been intransigent in their policy of simply toppling headstones.

“They should be communicating with the lair holders, rather than dropping the headstones in the first instance.

“That’s the main issue we’re trying to get the council to take on board.

“We’re 100% behind the council prioritising memorial safety. But they fail to understand the impact.

“It’s alarming they don’t seem to have sympathy or understanding.

“It’s not just the headstones, it’s peoples memory. It’s totally devastating to the families.”

He added: “Other local authorities, like East Renfrewshire, East Dunbartonshire and East Ayrshire don’t simply topple headstones and instead, use alternative methods of making headstones safe.

“The council claim these methods used by other local authorities aren’t ‘feasible’, but if they are feasible for these other councils, why are they not feasible options for Renfrewshire Council?”

A Renfrewshire Council spokesperson said: “We have a duty of care for safety within our cemeteries and our fully qualified staff have been assessing headstones and carefully lying flat unsafe headstones in line with Scottish Government guidance issued following the tragic death of a child in a Scottish cemetery.

“We understand how emotive it is for families when a headstone has to be laid flat and this is only ever done when it poses a significant risk to safety due to movement or insufficient fixings.

“Unfortunately, it isn’t always possible to reach lair owners before work is carried out and marker notices are placed on memorials and headstones with details for how lair holders can contact the council to ensure their memorial meets the required safety standards.

“There is also signage at each cemetery with the same information.”

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