Policy for cemetery inspections revised

The council will take action to deal with unsafe headstones in the region's cemeteries.
The council will take action to deal with unsafe headstones in the region's cemeteries.

Councillors have considered an updated policy for the maintenance and safety of cemeteries in the region.

A report to Argyll and Bute Council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee included a warning that memorials thought by council staff to be unsafe will be laid flat on the ground, inscription side up, at the next inspection.

Multiple unsafe memorials in the same area will Cemeteries are inspected every three years, but the next one could be imminent after recommendations as part of a fatal accident inquiry earlier this year into the death of Ciaran Williamson at Craigton Cemetery in Glasgow. The eight-year-old died instantly after an unsafe headstone fell on him in 2015.

The updated policy, written by amenity services operations manager Tom Murphy, says: “Argyll and Bute Council acknowledge that this may cause issues regarding the aesthetic appearance of a cemetery but safety must be the overriding factor. Contact will be made with the registered lair holder to enable them to make arrangements to re-erect the memorial.

“If no current lair holder can be identified from the lair register, Argyll and Bute Council will undertake to manage the risk presented by this category of stones by limiting access to the area and/or laying the stone flat on the ground, inscription face up.

“Memorials found to be immediately unsafe at inspection will be laid flat on the ground. Where an area in the cemetery of burial ground has a number of unsafe memorials the area will be cordoned off.”

A report by executive director of development and infrastructure Pippa Milne added that responsibility for the maintenance of headstones lies with lair holders, and that the new policy sets out the inspection regime for all of the region’s 131 cemeteries.”