Court to rule on graveyard row

By Annie DavidsonA SPECIAL court hearing has opened to rule on whether parishioners can continue to bury their dead at their town's only graveyard.A consistory court was convened yesterday at All Saints' Church in Brightlingsea, where the Rev Richard Salenius has declared the churchyard full.

By Annie Davidson

A SPECIAL court hearing has opened to rule on whether parishioners can continue to bury their dead at their town's only graveyard.

A consistory court was convened yesterday at All Saints' Church in Brightlingsea, where the Rev Richard Salenius has declared the churchyard full.

The town council rejected his stance, claiming there was still space on the 5.9-acre plot for burials to take place.


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Now the chancellor of the diocese, George Pullman QC, will make the ultimate decision on whether more burials can take place in the churchyard.

In the first consistory court hearing in Essex for three years, evidence is being heard from Mr Salenius, the town council, geophysical experts and parishioner Joe French.

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Mr French, 90, prompted the hearing by trying to reserve a plot in the graveyard for himself and his wife, Kay, 84.

He applied to the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev John Gladwin, who started the process for the consistory court.

Mr French, of Tower Street, Brightlingsea, told the hearing he would either like to have a plot reserved or reuse the grave where his great-grandfather was buried.

He added the headstone would be replaced, but still include his great-grandfather's details.

Giving evidence, Mr Salenius said the parochial church council had first discussed the issue in 1997 and the following year had refused an application for a grave site for the first time.

A decision was taken for the few remaining plots in the churchyard to be given on a first-come, first-serve basis rather than allowing people to reserve them, with the only exception for existing double graves.

Under cross-examination by Mark Bishop, acting for Brightlingsea Town Council, Mr Salenius denied his motivation for the closure had been financial because the churchyard cost money to maintain.

Mr Bishop said: “I'd suggest that beneath the surface of this dispute lies your view that this is a burden upon the church which should no longer be required.”

But Mr Salenius replied: “My position has always been born out of the situation in which I find myself in as vicar of a churchyard that is full.

“I have tried to go about the closure of the churchyard through taking advice of my superiors.”

When asked if he was surprised by the depth of feeling from the town, Mr Salenius said: “I am sceptical about the depth of feeling, to be honest.”

Referring to two applications for a cemetery next to All Saint's Church, which have been turned down, he added: “When I speak to, not members of the congregation, but other people in the town and explain there is an alternative to a closed churchyard and that is a cemetery, they can't understand why there is an occasion like this to determine it.”

The hearing continues today and a final decision is expected in two weeks.

annie.davidson@eadt.co.uk

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