As the mower rolls, my heart will sink

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - OPINION -

RE: Strong feel­ings over grave plan (page 11, Ad­ver­tiser, Oc­to­ber 2) FOL­LOW­ING Septem­ber’s coun­cil meet­ing, Chal­font St Peter parish coun­cil­lors will be fully aware of the level of op­po­si­tion to their 2010 decision to lay the graves in Sec­tion K to lawn.

My late fa­ther is buried there. He was a Chal­font St Peter man through and through. He fought for his coun­try in World War Two, us­ing the skills he learned as an ap­pren­tice me­chanic in Chal­font St Peter to help keep our tanks and jeeps rolling as our army marched through Italy. He was eter­nally grate­ful to be able to re­turn to the vil­lage he loved,

And so, almost 70 years later, I will no longer be able to tend his grave and plant colour­ful shrubs in the way he would have wanted.

The coun­cil has said it is more ef­fi­cient to lay the graves to lawn and that neigh­bour­ing parishes adopt a sim­i­lar pol­icy. How­ever, the coun­cil has failed in its du­ties as laid down by the Depart­ment for Con­sti­tu­tional Mat­ters, to con­sult its con­stituents in for­mu­lat­ing this pol­icy.

By the coun­cil’s own ad­mis­sion, there was no business plan or con­sul­ta­tion doc­u­ment pro­duced on which it based its orig­i­nal decision; just a pro­posal and some in­di­vid­ual pieces of ‘re­search’ by in­di­vid­ual coun­cil­lors, none of which is now avail­able for in­spec­tion.

The pe­ti­tion handed in at last month’s meet­ing has not been made avail­able for the coun­cil­lors to view and de­bate. The next meet­ing is not un­til the Oc­to­ber 30, by which time the coun­cil plans to have be­gun the grass­ing over. So, in essence, the coun­cil­lors will not have been given the op­por­tu­nity by those who lead and ad­vise them, to de­bate a pe­ti­tion that con­tains the names of many of their own elec­torate. So much for democ­racy and The Big So­ci­ety!

I do be­lieve that the coun­cil­lors, many of whom are still on the coun­cil, made their orig­i­nal decision in good faith. How­ever, times change and one of the key com­po­nents of pub­lic ser­vice is to be able to adapt to the will of the peo­ple.

The coun­cil will also say that many of the fam­i­lies of those buried in Sec­tion K support and wel­come the plans. I do not doubt that there are those who would pre­fer the graves of their loved ones to be laid to lawn. Their wishes should also be re­spected.

The sen­si­ble com­pro­mise for the parish coun­cil is to lay to lawn those graves where fam­i­lies wish them to do so. The coun­cil should then also al­low those fam­i­lies who wish to con­tinue to plant shrubs to do so un­til the point comes where those graves are ne­glected, when the coun­cil can then ex­er­cise its right to take over their main­te­nance.

Hav­ing met the coun­cil chair and clerk this week, I have no ex­pec­ta­tion that they will change their decision. Too many en­trenched po­si­tions, even though I sense that some on the coun­cil are no longer as com­fort­able as they once were with this is­sue.

It is said that you can­not please all of the peo­ple all of the time. If the parish coun­cil­lors were to show strong lead­er­ship on this mat­ter, then it is within their gift to ac­tu­ally dis­prove that old adage.

When that coun­cil mower rolls over my late fa­ther’s grave for the first time, my heart will sink and a lit­tle bit of the love I have for my home vil­lage will die for­ever. What price ef­fi­cien­cies?

PA­TRICK RUF­FLES

Chal­font St Peter

sis­ter, mum, nieces and neph­ews, four of which are his chil­dren, tend to his grave.

The kids love to take their dad flow­ers and lit­tle or­na­ments, which they dec­o­rate them­selves. My mum loves to weed and plant new flow­ers; to be hon­est I think it helps them to cope. I don’t see why it is such a prob­lem for the coun­cil to al­low them to keep things the way they are.

Well, I do ac­tu­ally and that’s the money, but I did not see them point­ing out this ‘laid to lawn’ rule when fam­i­lies were bury­ing their loved ones. My mum was told about this two weeks after we buried my brother so what could she have done?

I don’t think the coun­cil re­alise how many peo­ple this is up­set­ting or maybe they do and just don’t care. I just wanted to let you know that there are a lot of peo­ple who do not agree with this and I hope they email the Ad­ver­tiser so maybe you can get our views out there and maybe some­one will help.

CASSIE FISHER Leachcroft, Chal­font St Peter

Fur­ther­more, many fam­i­lies (in­clud­ing my own) are still in the process of griev­ing and this pro­posal does noth­ing to al­le­vi­ate or ease this process; rather it makes it far more trau­matic.

I would be most grate­ful if the coun­cil could give care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion to the dis­tress that this pro­posal is caus­ing with a view to over­turn­ing it. Those who have passed away re­main in the hearts and thoughts of those who are still here, yet this pro­posal de­nies those a sense of peace.

ANDY WAL­LIS Len­ton, Not­ting­ham

In 2009 the parish coun­cil be­gan dis­cussing open­ing a new area in the Gar­den of Rest. It was agreed a laid-to-lawn pol­icy would be adopted for buri­als in the new sec­tion for con­sis­tency and an at­mos­phere of dig­nity and seren­ity while also en­sur­ing safety and ef­fi­ciency. Ev­ery burial plot in the new sec­tion al­lows for a small area of plant­ing in front of the head­stone, as can be found in sim­i­lar laid-to-lawn ceme­ter­ies all over the UK, in­clud­ing Amer­sham.

After meet­ing the fam­i­lies con­cerned and con­sid­er­ing all other fam­i­lies who have pur­chased plots in the new sec­tion, the coun­cil met on Fri­day (Oc­to­ber 10). It was de­cided the ex­ist­ing pol­icy re­mains the best pol­icy to main­tain the new sec­tion and is sat­is­fied that cor­rect pro­ce­dures have been fol­lowed.

All pur­chasers were made aware of the reg­u­la­tions be­fore they pur­chased the plots. Po­ten­tial pur­chasers were free to not pur­chase a plot if they were un­happy. The coun­cil can­not breach its own reg­u­la­tions.

Com­plaints have been re­ceived from pur­chasers query­ing why their plots have not been laid to lawn as agreed. The coun­cil ac­knowl­edges re­ceipt of a pe­ti­tion but it does not re­flect the majority view of those fam­i­lies who have al­ready pur­chased plots within the new laid-to-lawn sec­tion.

The coun­cil is sym­pa­thetic this dis­pute has arisen dur­ing a pe­riod of grief for the fam­i­lies in­volved but is bound by the reg­u­la­tions. Th­ese ap­ply to all pur­chasers.

The reg­u­la­tions al­low a sec­tion for the fam­i­lies to plant and there is a pe­riod of 12 months where the en­tire plot is open to plant­ing while the ground set­tles.

COUN­CIL­LOR LINDA SMITH Chair­woman, Chal­font St Peter

Parish Coun­cil

ED­I­TOR’S NOTE: To read the full ver­sion of Coun­cil­lor Smith’s let­ter, go to www.get­bucks.co.uk.

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