HUNDREDS of families face having to fork out for repairs to their loved ones’ graves, which have been labelled unsafe by the borough council.
The owners of 488 graves in Basingstoke’s Worting Road Cemetery have been warned that the gravestones will be laid down unless the repairs are carried out within 12 months.
Notices have been attached to the headstones, warning owners that they will be liable if “anyone is injured” by the grave.
The notices say: “Your memorial has been identified as being a potential risk to others as it has failed a memorial stability test.
“As the owner of the grave, you are responsible for the repair and maintenance of the memorial and may be liable should an accident occur or if anyone is injured...If no action is taken to repair this memorial within the next 12 months, the Authority may lay the memorial down.”
The Worting Road Cemetery currently contains more than 10,000 graves and 4,822 of these were tested in a recent health and safety check. Of these, around 10 per cent – 488 – failed the test.
Tim Boschi, head of community services at Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, said the local authority has contacted families who own unsafe memorials, advising them to repair the gravestones.
He said: “We are committed to ensuring that the Worting Road Cemetery remains safe for all visitors and those who work there. We, therefore, have a periodic programme of memorial safety inspections.
“The testing of the graves was carried out by an independent company that specialises in memorial safety and checks for stability without using excessive force.
“All those memorials found to be in an unstable condition have been temporarily supported in order to minimise the risk.
“It is the grave owners’ responsibility to ensure that their memorials are stable and in a good state of repair.
“We are contacting families where memorials have been found to be unsafe, and are advising them to contact a monumental mason. We appreciate the distress and upset that this might cause, but we need to take this approach so that the cemetery remains a safe place.”
Among those told that their gravestone was unsafe is the family of David Ridgers, a dad from South Ham, Basingstoke, who has been buried in the cemetery for 24 years.
His family believe it was the recent safety test itself that made the grave unstable. Claire Ridgers-Smith, who was just two when her father passed away in 1990, said she was shocked and angry when she spotted the notice on a recent visit to the cemetery.
The 25-year-old, of Hatch Warren, Basingstoke, said: “We visit dad constantly and his gravestone has always been in very good condition. The grave certainly wasn’t unstable before they checked it by grabbing it and shaking it. My mum, Stacey Dawe, was incredibly upset.”
After the family appealed to the council, and raised concerns that the grave was damaged during the test, the borough agreed to fund the repairs. But the family say the whole experience has been a nightmare.
Claire said: “It has been horrendous. We feel the way we have been treated has just been appalling.”