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Graveyard safety inspection to start

Councillor John Wincott in  Leslie cemetery.
Councillor John Wincott in Leslie cemetery.

Fife Council is about to launch a major investigation into the safety of headstones in all of Fife’s 115 cemeteries.

It comes in the wake of the tragic death of an eight-year-old boy in Glasgow.

Ciaran Williamson was crushed by a falling tombstone as he played with friends.

The local authority will start a trial in Cupar and Inverkeithing cemeteries from Monday February 20.

These surveys will then be used to shape a broader inspection of all of Fife’s graveyards.

The council doesn’t have the right or responsibility to make repairs to tombstones.

So headstones found to be unsafe or in need of repair will be labelled and next of kin will be contacted.

Temporary safety measures could be taken while owners are traced.

These include securing the headstone to a post or fencing off areas.

Only “as a last option”, will a headstone be laid flat.

The council is asking local people who have loved one resting within these cemeteries to get in touch.

This will ensure that any lairs or headstones are both made safe and meet relatives’ requirements.

Bereavement services manager Liz Murphy said the council had a duty of care to provide a safe environment in cemeteries and churchyards for both the visiting public and council staff who work there.

“We are undertaking these initial surveys to help us to scope out the work that’s likely to be required across Fife.

“Where a headstone is found to be unsafe, lair owners will be contacted in writing and a sign attached to the headstone advising that there is an issue with its stability.

“Fife Council does not have the right or the responsibility to make repairs to headstones, and should the lair holder not make contact within the designated timescale, we will ‘trench in’ the headstone or, if necessary, lay the headstone flat to ensure safety.

“If a large area of unstable headstones is identified, the council will cordon off the surrounding area until the area can be made safe.”

Environment spokesman John Wincott added that the public could help by keeping their contact details up to date and by reporting any concerns.

“I urge visitors to please be respectful in and around cemeteries and graveyards, and this includes staying on the footpaths and supervising children at all times.”

The council will place signs at the entrance to those cemeteries or churchyards where inspection work is underway to raise awareness of these inspections.

Safer Communities chairwoman, Cupar councillor Margaret Kennedy, welcomed the investigation and was pleased to see the “respectful process” put in place to deal with matters sensitively.








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