MOURNERS have criticised a council’s new ban on fencing, gravel borders and railings around gravestones.
From next month, families across West Lothian will no longer be able to decorate lairs freely, and will have to comply with the new rules.
I feel sorry for the people that aren’t going to have the freedom to personalise their loved ones’ gravestones in every way they wish.George Kempik
Railings, kerbing, fencing, corner stones and gravel will no longer be permitted on new plots and the council has warned that such items will be removed.
More than 1000 people have signed a petition urging a rethink, including George Kempik, 58, who lost his 18-year-old daughter Deborah in a car crash eight years ago.
He said grieving families were able to take strength from tending their loved ones’ final resting places.
“When you are bereaved the last thing you are thinking about is rules and regulations – when we heard the news we were really upset,” said Mr Kempik, whose daughter is buried at Blaeberry Cemetery in Whitburn.
“Hopefully we won’t be affected as being able to decorate Deborah’s grave with chimes and lanterns, etc, has brought joy to us.
“It’s a shame if other families want to put up a fence around their lair to make it unique and won’t be able to.”
Murray Severs, 34, from Bathgate, whose dad and brother are also buried at Blaeberry, set up the online petition.
He said: “I feel sorry for the people that aren’t going to have the freedom to personalise their loved ones’ gravestones in every way they wish.
“I think the council are wrong to do this and they are underestimating how West Lothian people feel about this.”
West Lothian Council currently manages more than 50,000 graves and said fewer than one per cent of the existing lairs would be affected by the move, as decorations will only be removed from them if the space is needed.
It stressed that the new guidelines were aimed at new plots and that current decorations would not be routinely removed.
A spokeswoman for West Lothian Council said: “All graves in all West Lothian cemeteries are treated with the greatest respect and sensitivity by council staff.
“West Lothian Council’s aim is to ensure that the council’s cemeteries are maintained to a safe level whilst ensuring that the amenity of each cemetery site is respected and protected.
“Memorial flowers, wreaths and other small artefacts of remembrance will still be permitted within the headstone area and lair as per the terms and conditions set out in the Cemetery Management Rules.”