As the mower rolls, my heart will sink
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?
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
EDITOR’S NOTE: To read the full version of Councillor Smith’s letter, go to www.getbucks.co.uk.