Safety check on grave concerns

A GUIDE for people thinking of buying a headstone for a grave is being prepared by Huntingdon Town Council – just as the council begins its routine graveyard inspection. Town clerk Mike Kennedy said some of the memorials in Huntingdon churchyards were 350

A GUIDE for people thinking of buying a headstone for a grave is being prepared by Huntingdon Town Council - just as the council begins its routine graveyard inspection.

Town clerk Mike Kennedy said some of the memorials in Huntingdon churchyards were 350 years old and still stood as securely as when they were installed.

Cemeteries in Huntingdon are being inspected to ensure headstones are safe. Memorials in Primrose Lane, Priory Road and North Street cemeteries are being examined to comply with the town council's obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

Mr Kennedy said: "We understand that this can be an emotive issue for some people. A number of memorial owners have asked if they can be present when their memorials are tested."

In the case of churchyards including All Saints', St John's, St Mary's and Hartford, the council also needs the permission of the Ely Diocese before it can begin testing.

The test starts with a visual inspection to check for obvious defects, before a physical hand test on memorials of less than 2.5m to test for stability.

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A mechanical test is then applied to memorials under 1.5m in height, applying a force of 35kg and checking for movement. If this test shows that continued pressure would make the memorial topple over, it fails.

Action will involve cordoning off the area and asking the owner to have the stone repaired. The council is required to inspect every memorial once every five years.

Mr Kennedy said: "Any inspection work has to be co-ordinated with making memorials safe. This can be challenging for us where we are not able to contact the owners or they cannot carry out the work quickly.

"Laying down memorials on the ground introduces new hazards as visitors can trip over them and maintenance is made more difficult. Our staff are also at risk during the laying down process.

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