Ornaments and flowers left on graves of loved ones have been thrown into a skip by a local council due to ‘health and safety’ concerns.
Mourners visiting graves at Parkside Cemetery, Buckinghamshire, were devastated to find their memorabilia had been removed by South Bucks County Council.
The memorial garden is a ‘lawn cemetery’ with flat headstones only.
Families who have decorated graves with keepsakes and flowers for years have now been told they must remove all personal items, or they will be disposed of.
Ann Sibley, whose husband’s ashes are buried in the cemetery, told Yahoo News UK: “This weekend marked the third anniversary of my husband’s passing and I went with flowers in preparation.
“What greeted me was the destruction of many loved ones’ graves including removal of edgings and removal of any memorial stones and plaques which have all been dumped in a skip. In my eyes this is theft and vandalism.
“There has been a notice of removal of artificial flowers up for a number of weeks, however never in a million years did I expect this extreme destruction that has taken place.
“Disgusted doesn’t even begin to describe how I am feeling, more so the hurt and pain that seeing this has caused me and my family.”
Ann said she was told some families were sent a letter warning of the impending clearance, but she has not met anyone who received the letter and did not receive one herself.
She said: “I have complained to both South Bucks District Council and Stoke Poges Memorial Gardens, but the damage has already been done.”
A notice at the cemetery reads: “Our long term goal is to keep the cemetery looking beautiful; a fitting place of memorial for all the people buried here and a safe place for all bereaved families, cemetery staff and visitors.”
Mary Crocker, of Stoke Poges, Buckinghamshire, said: “It was so distressing. The grave was left bare apart from being covered in mud. After complaining they have been back and cleaned the headstone.
“We have looked for our ornaments but they are not by the skip. They say the stones are a safety hazard and are not allowed but they have been there for eight years with no issue.
Alison Buckland said: “We have just been down there as my son is buried there, we had to rifle through the skip to retrieve a small stone teddy and a small angel which has sat on his grave stone for the last 24 years.
“The grave diggers are up there and we asked them if they are responsible for the devastation. One said no.
“One of the others then started telling us the rules and regulations, which I totally understand that some people do have large memorials but to remove everything even the grave surround is so hurtful and disrespectful.
“We asked him just not to talk to us and leave us be. Clearly upset I pointed out how upsetting this was and they were heartless, he kept quoting rules so I strongly pointed out I hope he hasn’t had to bury his son and had the memorials tossed in a skip he then walked away told me to f*** off.”
Councillor Luisa Sullivan, Portfolio Holder for Environment said: “We are very sorry that this has caused upset – that was certainly not the intention.
“We understand that it is important for people to have a place where they can express their grief and mourn their loved ones and we try to enable this in as sensitive a way as we can.
“We get more complaints about what is left on graves than we get about what we remove. The regulations haven’t changed, they have been the same since the cemetery was opened. We remove stones and pebbles from around the gravestones and replace them with topsoil and grass seed because the pebbles are dangerous when we carry out the grass cutting. The stones get propelled in the air and can fly long distances at considerable speed, causing potential damage and injury to visitors. The same goes for glass jars, vases and ornaments. We have been letting people know that we are going to remove such items through notices at the cemetery, asking grave owners to remove items in March and again in November.
“Much of what is in the skip are those Christmas decorations. Grave ornaments have been placed next to the skip so that families are able to collect them if they wish.
“The long term goal is to keep the cemetery looking beautiful; a fitting place of memorial for all the people buried here and a safe place for our visitors.
"South Bucks District Council is responsible for the upkeep of the cemetery to ensure it is safe, accessible and presentable for all people who come to visit graves. Families were written to and notices have been displayed at the cemetery since November informing users of the impending removal work.”