The owners of memorial stones in Chorley’s cemeteries will be invited to carry out any necessary repair work - before the borough council begins a programme of inspections.
Chorley Council has been advised by insurers that it needs to examine the safety of all 6,400 headstones in Chorley and Adlington graveyards - something which it describes as “a significant piece of work”.
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It will also have to inspect standing memorials in the graveyards of churches for which the council is responsible - St. John’s at Whittle le Woods and St Peter’s in Harpers Lane, Chorley.
The authority will advertise the forthcoming inspections in local media and at the cemeteries themselves. But once the process begins, if any defects are discovered which are deemed to pose an imminent danger to the public, the council will immediately lie the headstone flat, facing upwards, or cordon off the area.
It cannot remove a memorial which is not an immediate danger until it has first posted public notices and attempted to trace the grave's owner.
A meeting of the authority’s cabinet heard concerns from one opposition member about the appropriateness of any action taken to keep the cemeteries safe. Eric Ball recalled work which was previously carried out at St. John’s Church.
“You put scaffolding posts around the gravestones - they looked horrendous. Some of the headstones are only two feet high, so there must be a better way to do it,” Cllr Ball said.
But cabinet member for streetscene, Adrian Lowe, said that the work at St. John’s dated back around a decade and promised that there would be no repeat. He added that the council has “a responsibility for ensuring cemeteries are safe and welcoming places”.
The council will attempt to make contact with the deed holders of any graves causing concern, as it is the duty of the individual to make safe the memorials on plots which they own. Where a grave owner refuses to carry out remedial work - or cannot be contacted - they may be billed at a later date for any expense incurred by the council.
Two full-time staff will be deployed to undertake the inspections, which are expected to take around two years to complete. A rolling five-year inspection regime will then begin.
Headstones deemed to be most at risk - either because of their condition or proximity to busy areas - will be examined first.
WHAT THE INSPECTORS WILL BE LOOKING OUT FOR
***Movement of 5 degrees from vertical
***Cracks in headstone or base
OTHER MEMORIALS TO BE INSPECTED
As well as headstones, other items of graveyard furniture will also be examined for safety, including:
***Railings and chains