U-turn over St Albans cemetery grave plot gardens

A COMPLAINT aired on national television about limits on the size of grave plot gardens at a St Albans cemetery has resulted in the district council backing down over restrictions.

In mid-October ITV’s London Tonight broadcast an item about a letter sent to relatives of loved ones buried in the London Road cemetery.

In the letter St Albans district council (SADC) said rules on the size of a garden planted on grave plots state it should not exceed three feet wide by one foot deep in front of a headstone.

It added that the council had measured all areas exceeding one foot, and would put a limit of 4ft 6in for those wanting a larger area, to allow the cemetery “to be maintained to the high standards expected.”

It asked for any grave with an area personalised exceeding that limit, where the burial took place over a year ago, to have the tributes removed and plants transplanted within the 4ft 6in area, so the extended area could be levelled and seeded.

In a report to SADC’s local services scrutiny committee meeting on Tuesday October 30, council officers said, “gardens that extend more than one foot are in breach of the council’s regulations.”

But it admitted that those rules have not been regularly enforced in St Albans in recent years.

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The cemeteries team had sent the letter following complaints from families who kept garden plots within the three feet wide by one foot long limit, and were annoyed that others exceeded and encroached on common areas of the cemetery.

The report added: “This letter was offering more than existing regulations allowed and was intended to be for the benefit of grave owners. We understand the sensitivity of these matters and we greatly regret that the letter has caused distress to the local resident.”

The committee heard that the resident who had complained on London Tonight had not been notified of any regulations about graveside tributes when he originally bought the plot.

After the meeting committee chairman Cllr Robert Donald explained that the resident had, “simply followed what others had done nearby in the cemetery.

“He was upset that he would have to reduce his wife’s graveside garden as a result.”

The man has since received an apology from the council.

Also, letters will be sent to all plot holders of London Road cemetery’s section B, telling them the council will not retrospectively enforce the regulation limiting gardening areas to one foot long.

Cllr Donald added that it was important St Albans’ cemeteries were kept tidy to provide a “dignified place”.

He said all grave owners needed to know what the regulations were in the first place, and those standards consistently maintained.

Cllr Donald went on: “We agreed that regulations concerning the size of graveside tributes for loved ones are an extremely sensitive issue for many residents that always require careful handling.”