Comment: Sensitive graveyard rules ensure peace of mind for all

Adele Bell at the grave of her son Bradley and daughter and Alecia. Picture: Toby Williams
Adele Bell at the grave of her son Bradley and daughter and Alecia. Picture: Toby Williams
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FEW subjects are more sensitive than the care and maintenance of graveyards.

While many burial plots and gravestones may appear untended and in need of care and attention, there are those where the devoted attention of grieving relatives is clearly evident. And it is these, rather than the neglected graves, that is causing problems for West Lothian council.

It has introduced a ban on fencing, gravel borders and railings round gravestones. These will not be permitted on new plots and warned that some such items may be removed.

The council manages more than 50,000 graves and says decorations will only be removed from them if the space is needed. It says that all graves in its cemeteries “are treated with the greatest respect and sensitivity by council staff” and that the 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.”

Grieving families draw strength and comfort from tending their loved ones’ final resting places. And a well-tended grave is surely preferable to those where neglect is visible.

West Lothian council has a point. Cemetery space is finite. Fences and gravel borders can encroach on neighbouring plots, and can hinder access to more modest gravesides where feelings of loss may be as acute but are less visible.

Here the council is right to draw up some sensitive rules which work to ensure that the more demonstrative graves do not crowd adjoining plots and injure the peace of mind of other mourners.

When mourners seek to have their loved ones rest in peace, the council should ensure as far as possible that they do just that, and as long as the council is sympathetic in the application of the rules, these should help all who are involved.