Preston Council u-turn over controversial cemetery clean-up

AT RISK: The grave of campaigner Patricia Vartys mother Rose Mary Donnelly.

AT RISK: The grave of campaigner Patricia Vartys mother Rose Mary Donnelly.

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Grieving relatives have won a temporary reprieve after Town Hall bosses announced last night they were halting the removal of memorials from the graves of their loved ones in Preston Cemetery.

The re-think came just 24 hours before a public meeting tonight at which 80 families will plan a campaign to fight the controversial graveyard clean-up.

The City Council has suspended its threatened enforcement action to allow for a period of consultation with the relatives who have collected hundreds of signatures on a petition.

“There will be no enforcement action for current memorials until we have carried out this review and, importantly, had full public consultation on what people want and expect at Preston’s cemeteries,” said deputy leader, Coun John Swindells.

“As always, the council will try to respond to the local community. We want to work in a reasonable and sensible way - one that meets the needs of local people, but also preserves the cemeteries for the next 100 years and more.”

Dozens of families were left heartbroken after the council sent letters warning items placed outside a certain area would need to be moved, or could even be taken away.

After hearing the news of the U-turn, Patricia Varty, whose mum Rose Mary Donnelly is buried in the cemetery, said: “It’s something I suppose, although they are only putting it on hold.

“It shows they are listening to us, although they haven’t got much choice because they know we aren’t going to go away.

“It’s a breathing space so we can get round the table and discuss the issue with them. But it will take more than this to convince people.”

The council will now review its rules for the size, type and nature of memorials on graves.

Coun Swindells said: “I have though been contacted by a number of people who were concerned that the council would immediately remove memorials from their loved one’s graves. This was never the case, but it has made me realise we do need to do more to understand the situation at the cemeteries.”