A council boss said he was “very concerned” to learn staff had been cutting grass at an overgrown churchyard and pledged to put a stop to it immediately.
Following a hard-fought campaign by locals, offenders from Perth and Kinross Council’s community justice services department were tasked with maintaining the burial ground at St Michael’s Old Parish Church in Crieff.
It followed months of complaints about the perilous state of the 19th Century building on Church Street. Locals said the site had become a hotbed for antisocial behaviour and dog fouling.
Earlier this month, community councillor Craig Finlay contacted the local authority to raise concerns the area was becoming overgrown again.
But Mr Finlay said he was taken aback by the response from acting direct services manager Nigel Taylor.
Mr Taylor wrote: “I was very concerned to learn that our staff had performed grass cutting in the burial ground and have issued a clear instruction that this must cease.”
He said that the council’s role was reduced to “occasional litter picking” and keeping church walls and paths in safe condition following budget cutbacks in 2013.
He added: “I sincerely apologise that your and the community council’s expectations were raised in this way.”
Mr Finlay said: “I was not expecting a response like that at all. It was extremely concerning to hear that they are going to stop cutting the grass.
“This churchyard is in the centre of the town and gets a lot of visitors. People have worked hard to ensure adequate maintenance is provided by the council.”
He said: “This is a very serious situation and one which may result in a return to more neglect, antisocial behaviour and disregard for historic sites.”
Last night, a council spokeswoman said that changes to ground maintenances services had came into force two years ago following a public consultation on the matter.
“Grass is only cut on areas which are maintained by the council,” she said.
“These are areas which are either owned by the council or where there is a standing maintenance agreement.
“St Michael’s Churchyard in Crieff is not owned by Perth and Kinross Council and it is the property owner’s responsibility to cut the grass.”
She added: “The council has cut the grass a number of times since the service changes were implemented in 2013, to allow the property owner to put alternative maintenance arrangements in place, however this cannot continue.”
In a recent report prepared by the Crieff and Upper Strathearn Partnership, spokesman John Champion said that the building had been passed onto the crown “effectively leaving it in the control of the local authority,” he said.
The building dates back to 1827.