Town council denies it is to destroy unclaimed memorial benches at Soham cemetery - despite warning notices
PUBLISHED: 09:43 27 March 2017 | UPDATED: 09:43 27 March 2017
Soham Town Council has insisted it is not to destroy memorial benches in the town's cemetery - despite attaching notices to nine benches warning that they could be removed.
Owners of benches at the Fordham Road cemetery were forced to take action after the town council gave them a month’s notice to renovate them or face losing them.
The signs read: “This bench has been reviewed by ground staff and for health, safety or aesthetic reasons requires your immediate attention.
“You have one calendar month to effect repairs on this bench which include structural/painting.
“Should this work not be completed by the bench owner this bench will be removed on or after March 21 without further notice and be destroyed.”
That deadline passed last week but the council has denied that it is to destroy the benches, and says it has had a “positive response” from owners, with many coming forward to ensure their bench stays in the cemetery.
A spokesman said: “The decision to undertake assessment of these commemorative benches was part of an audit and prompted a number of complaints.
“We considered these complaints were, on balance, valid. There were no obvious voluntary improvements undertaken by owners so at its February meeting the cemetery and allotment committee approved that generic notices be placed on nine of 22 benches.
“These were identified as being most in need of urgent repair or refurbishment and the noticed were provided solely and specifically to alert their owners.
“The town council has, contrary to social media, received a very positive response from those directly affected.”
The council also says it has had one bench owner offer to take over two benches from their original owners who are no longer able to carry out and repairs themselves.
“Contrary to the content and threads circulating, the town council has not and will not be “burning” “unsightly” benches,” the town council spokesman added.
“We would respectfully point to potential bench owners that as the council is the owner and occupier of the cemetery, it has a duty and is therefore entitled to take both immediate and/or reasonable action – including the disposal of unclaimed or unwanted benches, particularly where there is a health and safety issue or neglect.”
One bench owner who had to restore her bench was Abbi Flack.
She made a last-minute trip to the cemetery last Tuesday and renovated it by scrubbing it with a wire brush and giving it a lick of paint.
She then posted the results on social media, saying: “I would have done them all. It was quite therapeutic but I didn’t want to upset the people who own them. I hope all the relatives have been contacted now.”
The council has also announced that it is to temporarily suspend the approval of any more benches until June and the cemetery will no longer be accepting wooden benches.