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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 September, 2004, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Gravestone removal halted
Graveyard
Hundreds of headstones were found to be unsafe
Work on laying flat hundreds of gravestones at a cemetery in west Wales has been suspended.

Carmarthenshire Council started taking down headstones at Ammanford cemetery last week following a safety survey.

Authority workers have already taken down 372 gravestones - almost half of the 794 tested by specialists.

Some families have said they are unhappy about the lack of consultation.

Testing of a further 1,435 graves has been halted until after a decision by the council's executive board.

The council has also apologised for not being able to inform all the families affected before the gravestones were removed.

It said it had carried out the safety survey following new legislation by the Health and Safety Executive.

We appreciate that this can be distressing for families, but stress that we had to put public safety first and foremost
Richard Workman, Carmarthenshire Council
Andrea Griffiths is angry after three of her relatives' gravestones were laid flat.

She said she saw nothing wrong when she last visited the graves two days before.

"We weren't informed at all, a neighbour phoned us to tell us," said Mrs Griffiths.

She said she did not accept the council's apology.

"We're devastated - we knew our three headstones were safe but if they had offered, we would have had our own undertaker do the work and we would have foot the bill."

"My grandaughter would have had her 12th birthday this November - where do we lay flowers?"

Director of Technical Services Richard Workman said:"We had to act immediately following the survey in the interests of public safety.

"Unfortunately, we could not contact all the family members before laying the stones flat.

"We have tried to inform as many as possible and have put posters and signs up at the cemetery," said Mr Workman.

"We appreciate that this can be distressing for families, but stress that we had to put public safety first and foremost."

Specialist contractors found there was an immediate risk to public safety with more than 50 per cent of the headstones surveyed.

Of the gravestones classed as unstable and dangerous, 372 have been laid flat. The rest, in an old part of the cemetery, are too dangerous to be laid flat and need specialised equipments.

A council spokeswoman said new signs are being put up to advise families that some headstones, which are still standing may still be a danger.

The authority is also to advise stonemasons and family members that from now on all headstones will have to be fitted to certain specifications to avoid any safety problems.




SEE ALSO:
Graveyard protest group is formed
25 Aug 04  |  Cornwall
Anger as headstone moved
24 Mar 04  |  North West Wales


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