More gravestones to face EU 'push test'

GRAVESTONES across parts of west Suffolk could be damaged and even uprooted in the latest health and safety tests to be conducted in the area, angry villagers have claimed.

GRAVESTONES across parts of west Suffolk could be damaged and even uprooted in the latest health and safety tests to be conducted in the area, angry villagers have claimed.

News that stones in several churchyards in the area are to be subjected to the rigorous testing comes after work in Bury St Edmunds and Haverhill prompted outrage when some people found headstones had been laid down and in some cases damaged.

Wardens who look after the churchyards in the communities to be tested next have reacted with dismay after it was announced St Edmundsbury Borough Council officials would be visiting to see if stones are secure.

However, many feel any that are dangerous have already been laid down safely and the tests are unnecessary.


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St John the Baptist in Stoke by Clare, near Haverhill, St Petronilla in Whepstead, near Bury, St Andrews in Barningham, near Bury and St Peters in Ousden, near Newmarket, are among the churchyards to be tested shortly.

Roger McKenny, churchwarden at Stoke by Clare said: “I'm not very happy with this because this is part of our heritage and testing the headstones like this is totally over the top.

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“Any stones which are a problem are already laid down. The state doesn't need to do this - it is over legislating. They can come and test them but it is a waste of time which taxpayers are paying for.”

John Douse, warden at Whepstead, was confident his graveyard was already safe and hoped the inspectors would find no unsafe monuments.

“The stones are important part of our heritage and they are in a conservation area but I am relatively unconcerned because many of the graves have already lost their stones. I hope they don't find any more to be laid down.”

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring stressed the importance of a commonsense approach to the “disrespectful” testing which has caused offence and considerable distress to many relatives.

“All I ask is for St Edmundsbury to conduct the tests with a greater sensitivity and proportionality,” he said.

A spokesman for the borough council said they had no choice but to carry out the health and safety directive.

“This is something which is happening across the country. We have identified only those stones deemed dangerous and it is the responsibility of the owners to have them repaired.

“However, many of the problems associated with gravestones have been with relatively new gravestones because of their method of construction. Older gravestones don't usually have the same problem because they are sunk into the ground.”

Each stone is shaken by hand before being pushed with a hand held machine. If damaged in the process the stone is marked for repair by relatives.

If none are forthcoming the stone is laid down permanently and can then be moved to lean against the walls of the church.

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