Heartbroken families in cemetery row with Preston Council

Families have been left heartbroken after council bosses asked them to remove memorials from graves of their loved ones.

Grave of Rose Mary Donnelly, mum of Patricia Varty, who has been sent a letter from Preston Council
Grave of Rose Mary Donnelly, mum of Patricia Varty, who has been sent a letter from Preston Council

Letters were sent to dozens of relatives of those buried in Preston Cemetery, saying items placed outside a certain area would need to be moved, or could be taken away.

Karen Corless, 57, whose parents George and Clarissa Vickers are both in the cemetery, said: “It’s just so upsetting and absolutely disgusting what they are trying to do.”

The letters include rules around graves and headstones, and say memorials on certain graves do not comply.

Jon-Jo Highton's grave

Part of the rules say: “An area of 18 inches is allowed from the head of the grave to incorporate ALL memorialisation including the head stone.

“Any item placed outside this area may be removed by the council after 28 days written notice being given to the grave owner.”

It also said kerbs or borders could not be put around graves on lawned areas, other than for babies.

Tracey Highton, 43,whose son Jon-Jo was killed two years ago, received the letter two days before the anniversary of his death.

Jon-Jo Highton's grave

She said: “I’ve got three things that keep me going - my son Byron, my grandson and having this resting place.

“I’ve said I’ll sleep there every night if they try to take it.”

Patricia Varty, 47, from Ribbleton, described her mum Rose Mary Donnelly’s grave as “beautiful”.

She said she had received messages from others affected, and is hoping a public meeting can be held.

A council spokesman said: “We understand that tending the grave of a loved one can be a treasured and sensitive time, and some people want to add personal touches as part of this process.

“At the same time, this is a lawned cemetery and we need to maintain the cemetery for the benefit of all users.

“Where there are a large number of memorials on a grave this causes difficulties for people attending burials at adjacent graves and also makes it difficult to carry out maintenance tasks such as grass cutting.

“We have been advising people about this over the past year as they have been visiting their grave and we have now written to people to let them know that, as a working cemetery, memorials do need to be kept within the agreed limitations.”