Colchester: Tacky or tasteful? Row over cemetery decorations comes to a head

A ROW over a whether a decorated graveyard tree is tacky or tasteful has come to a head after a council said it would remove all hanging ornaments.

Grave owners are refusing to take down the sentimental decorations which cover a tree in Colchester Cemetery despite an ultimatum from Colchester Borough Council that they must all be removed by March 1.

Anne Lee and her daughter Siobhan visit the cemetery in Mersea Road up to three times a day to tend the grave of Siobhan’s twin sister Vicki who died about six months ago.

“I think it’s wrong of the council to try and tell people how they should grieve,” said Mrs Lee. “We chose this plot especially because we think it’s a nice area where people put a lot of effort into looking after their graves.

“We have hung up seven different decorations which all have a personal meaning. There are hearts because we love her to bits, and wind chimes and dolphins because Vicki loved them.

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“We have been told that the decorations make too much noise, but even on a windy day it’s not that loud. Many people find the sound of wind chimes comforting.

“We don’t want people telling us what we can and can’t have and we are worried that next the council will tell us that we can’t have artificial flowers or candles.

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“We’ve been told that that the graves look cluttered and one councillor said it looked like Poundland, but we think they look beautiful and many of the graves are for children so the decorations are suitable.”

The council has said that a display of wind chimes and solar lights is allowed on grave spaces only, and is limited to two of each per grave space. Ornaments or articles in trees are not permitted and will be removed by council staff.

Cllr Martin Hunt, who is responsible for Colchester Cemetery, said: “The council is responsible for managing and maintaining the open spaces within the cemetery and we must have clear and consistent rules that allow us to ensure the cemetery is the beautiful, tranquil place that people have come to expect and appreciate.

“New regulations, which reflect the feedback gathered from cemetery users, were introduced in 2010 and have been widely communicated to grave owners over the past year.

“The council is now seeking to encourage visitors to take shared responsibility for maintaining this beautiful space by complying with these regulations, which will be enforced from 1 March 2011.

“We will continue to respect an individual’s right to express their grief within the boundaries of the grave space, however the removal of ornaments from open spaces, in particular trees, is necessary to allow funeral services to be conducted with the dignity they deserve and allow all mourners to grieve in peace.”

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