New rules for gave displays discussed

LIMITS could be put on the amount of personal memorabilia relatives can leave in cemeteries, it was revealed today.New rules were today due to be debated by councillors about leaving personal memorabilia on memorials at Ipswich cemeteries.

LIMITS could be put on the amount of personal memorabilia relatives can leave in cemeteries, it was revealed today.

New rules were today due to be debated by councillors about leaving personal memorabilia on memorials at Ipswich cemeteries.

Officials at Ipswich cemetery are concerned that some memorials, especially those on the remains of people who have been cremated, have too much personal memorabilia on them.

Some of this spills over on to neighbouring plots - and some is considered just too overpowering for relatively small plots.

The new rules could include limiting the number of personal items that could be left on a memorial to just three items, and stipulating that none could be higher than the gravestone.

But cemeteries manager Mike Grimwood said everyone was aware that the subject of personal memorabilia was very sensitive.

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"We know that what one person can see as a lovely reminder of a loved one, someone else can see as tasteless clutter near their own special plot.

"It's going to be difficult to draw a balance - but that's what we're trying to do here," he said.

Memorials have been marked by items such as wind charms, plastic windmills and birds.

Teddy bears and other soft toys have been left, and the growth of memorabilia has made it much more difficult for gardeners to keep the plots tidy.

Mr Grimwood said wind chimes caused particular difficulty.

"Many people like these to help emphasise a feeling of spirituality - but others feel that the ruin the peace and quiet of the area.

"We had one tree with 50 windchimes on it. One day the gardeners found they had all been taken down and laid carefully on the ground beside it.

"The next day they'd all been put back up again - it is a matter of personal taste."

Any new rules would come in on November 1 - but they would not be enforced immediately.

Mr Grimwood said: "We shall be contacting everyone affected and asking them to ensure they comply with them, but we won't go rushing in and taking away everything at once.

"We really think we're taking a common-sense line on this - in some other parts of the country they have said nothing can be left on graves apart from flowers and have been in to take everything else away.

"We won't be doing that."

In the new Millennium Cemetery there is a memorial rose garden - and here there is a ban on personal memorabilia, but people are aware of that when their loved ones' cremated remains are interred there.

And in other parts of the cemetery, green shingle has replaced grass around memorials - and that has helped keep the area clean and tidy.

Ipswich council executive member Paul West, whose responsibilities include cemeteries, said there was a need to take a sensible line on the subject.

"We have to recognise that different people express their grief in different ways and respect that.

"We don't want to bring in any draconian bans, but we do need to look at bringing regulations up to date.

"I'm not sure about restricting the number of items of memorabilia, but I can see that we need to ensure that one family doesn't encroach on the space taken up by another family," he said.

At West Suffolk Crematorium, near Bury St Edmunds, staff admit a blind eye is often turned to the rules on personal memorabilia.

Crematorium operator Malcolm Neale said: "It is a very personal issue. Officially there should be no memorabilia but unofficially we use our discretion.

"If someone is extremely upset we let it lapse even though we shouldn't.

"It is a sensitive time for people and if a child had died we would probably turn a blind eye if someone wanted to put a teddy on the grave.

"It depends on the age of the child and circumstances."

Mr Neale said crematorium staff regularly clear up the gravesides to ensure personal memorabilia does not build up at the site.

He added: "Every now and again we have a clear up and remove things like teddies and false flowers."

Felixstowe Town Council has no rules about memorabilia at its cemetery in Langley Avenue.

Town clerk Susan Robinson said: "As far as we can, we allow people to grieve in their own way."

Do you think the council should introduce new rules on memorabilia in cemeteries? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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