Henley Town Council have introduced a new bench policy at the Fairmile Cemetery which has caused upset to a number of a families.
In a notice posted at the cemetery and on the website it said:
“An increasing number of benches at the Fairmile Cemetery have appeared without permission, many of which are unstable and unsafe. We have had incidents of vandalism, theft, and benches are being placed on other grave plots, which is unacceptable and upsetting to others.
Therefore, Henley-on-Thames Town Council are hereby notifying owners of all unauthorised benches at the Fairmile Cemetery to remove them by 30th
September 2020. If benches are not removed by this date, then they will be removed by the Town Council and disposed of.
However, we realise that many family and friends are keen to have a bench where they can sit and remember their loved ones. To that end, The Council have put in place a new scheme for benches and trees in memory of loved ones. These will be maintained by the Town Council, and put in an appropriate position in each section of the cemetery to ensure everyone’s safety and for public use. The new policy can be found at our website: www.henleytowncouncil.gov.uk.
We really appreciate your cooperation, and if you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com or 01491 576982.”
At this week’s Recreation & Amenities Committee Meeting of the Council, Town Clerk, Sheridan Jacklin Edward said “We have duty to make ensure that the cemetery is well looked after and a pleasant and peaceful place for friends and families to remember those who have past. We have been aware that over the years that commemorative benches have appeared in the cemetery. Whilst they were no doubt they were put there with the best intentions, many of them have been placed there without consulting with the Town Council. This is important so that we can ensure that the benches are of good quality, well maintained and insured against theft, damage and injury and are securely installed in a suitable location. Over the past 20 years, almost 30 benches have appeared in the cemetery. Of those 6 of them have been placed on plots owned by other families, 3 are sadly broken and 7 are likely to needed to be repaired in the near future. Of the remainder many have not been maintained since they were put in. Most of the benches have also not been fixed to the ground and earlier this year a bench was stolen. Memorial benches should be an enduring and fitting tribute to the person’s memory and it is saddening to see benches fall in disrepair. It is clear that something needs to be done and in the future families need to ensure that any benches put in will be a lasting memorial and be safely enjoyed by all visitors to the cemetery.”
“Given the varying conditions of the current benches, we felt it would be fairest to all families that we treat them equally. As the majority of benches have been put in place without the Town Council’s consent we did not have contact details for the owners so a notice was placed on each bench giving them 3 months notice to remove the bench or to contact the Council to discuss it. While our intention was to keep the message clear and simple, in hindsight the wording of the notice should have been better and realised that this has caused distress to the families for which I am sorry. Where families have called the Council, our Cemetery Manager has dealt with each issue sensitively and sympathetically. We will review each bench case by case basis.”
Families whose benches are in disrepair will be offered to buy a new bench (with variety of budget options) from the Council at cost and will be maintained and insured by the Council.