Row over churchyard closed to burials

By Annie Davidson and Ted JeoryA CHURCHYARD that could soon close its 800-year-old gates to new burials has space for more graves, it has been claimed.

By Annie Davidson and Ted Jeory

A CHURCHYARD that could soon close its 800-year-old gates to new burials has space for more graves, it has been claimed.

A row has broken out in Brightlingsea after the Rev Richard Salenius decided to close the graveyard at the town's All Saints Church.

He applied to the Home Office for official permission to stop burials after deciding there was no more room in the churchyard for burials.

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But the town council objected and claimed areas deemed by the vicar to be the site of long-forgotten graves could in fact provide extra capacity.

Hemel Hempstead-based Fugro Ltd, which specialises in oil and gas exploration, sent a team to Brightlingsea yesterday to survey the churchyard to establish where there were graves and where there was vacant land.

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During the inspection, which cost the town's council tax payers between £1,000 and £1,500, geophysicists sent electromagnetic pulses into the earth to compile a picture of where the graves were.

After they had completed their work, Brightlingsea town and district councillor, Peter Patrick, said space for more burials had been detected.

“There is a suspicion of some graves in one part which was looked at, but the rest of it is clear,” he added.

“I believe there is room for further burials. We will be putting this to the public at our meeting on Friday and then pass on their views to the Home Office.”

But Mr Salenius said the survey had made no difference. “One of the areas that they were looking at is necessary for vehicle access for workmen needing to carry out repairs or create inscriptions on headstones,” he explained.

“There is also another area that people, who I don't recall seeing in congregations, are getting worked up about and that's among the old 19th Century headstones.

“But clearly we can't mix modern headstones and old ones - as guardians of the yard, we have to provide uniformity on aesthetic grounds. The archdeacon himself has said so.

“I find it a bit galling that non-church folk at the town council are going against me on this. I don't think they have any idea of what it takes to run and maintain a churchyard - the level of debate has been lamentable.”

An application for a new graveyard next to All Saints Church has been turned down by Tendring District Council, but it may be submitted again once the Home Office has made its decision.

n A public meeting has been called on Friday at 7.30pm at the Brightlingsea Community Centre to discuss the issue.

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