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Families plead with council ‘don’t remove items off our graves’

Angry families have pleaded with the city council not to remove items from their loved ones graves after signs went up at the Birmingham site ahead of planned maintenance work.

Signs have appeared around Sutton New Hall Cemetery in Lindridge Road, Sutton Coldfield asking for the removal of all personal belongings from graves. And also requesting all items around the grave borders are removed as they are ‘unregulated’ and not allowed.

The signs appeared in September and said items will be removed ‘within the next month’. And the authority has told BirminghamLive the items will be removed ‘early in November’.

Read more: Fury as 150 gather by cemetery for funerals causing traffic chaos

The signs state: “Turfing of this section will take place within the next month. Please remove all personal belongings for safe-keeping. Our staff are not responsible for any loss or damage if items are not removed.

“All kerbing, plastic and wooden fencing is unregulated in this section and will be permanently removed.”

But those that visit the site and tend their loved-ones graves are asking Birmingham City Council to think again.

Signs have appeared around close to the graves at New Hall Cemetery in Sutton Coldfield asking families to remove personal items and borders

Mohammed Shabir has started a petition on Change.org and said: “Families at Sutton New Hall Cemetery are being forced to remove all grave borders, and items that Birmingham City Council perceive as a health and safety trip hazards

“We the families have never been informed of this until recently with no date set for forced removal of items leading to damaging the graves, if we haven’t removed before.

“Understandably not all families attend daily and less then a month’s notice is unfair by any standards.

“Surely Birmingham City Council understand a cemetery will have things that are a trip hazard but restrictions shouldn’t be so strict as to stop families honouring their loved ones.”

Read more: Families faced four-hour Christmas Day delay at cemetery after council blunder

Mr Shabir said families ‘strongly agree’ there should be restrictions to stop people ‘imposing’ on other graves or walkways ‘for the safety of workers’. But was not happy with the council’s request.

He urged people to sign his petition and said: “The new imposed restrictions are ridiculous and very upsetting to the families.

“Please help us and help change for the better our wishes to merely border of our graves for easy maintenance and overall care. At some point the wishes of the families and the deceased should be respected and only those imposing on others and walkways should be dealt with.

Signs have appeared around Sutton New Hall Cemetery asking those tending graves to remove keepsakes and banned border surrounds
Signs have appeared around Sutton New Hall Cemetery asking those tending graves to remove keepsakes and banned border surrounds

He continued: “I’ve spoken to the office and all were being told it’s Birmingham City Council and the safety of our workers that’s important.

“Any views other than that are taken negatively, like we don’t care about their safety. They lack any passion or understanding of our needs.

“Nevertheless, please help in signing this petition, whether you have loved ones here or not, for just the reasons that you agree with the families here.”

Read more: Family to continue fight as council give a month to clear twins’ grave

Birmingham City Council said it acknowledged families’ concerns but said the work required was ‘very important’. It said everyone with a grave at a city council site had to abide by the rules. And grave border items in particular have led to ‘encroachment, obstruction, safety concerns and complaints’.

The council said any removed items will be stored ‘for three months’ to enable them to be collected.

The Birmingham City Council statement in full

A Birmingham City Council spokeswoman: “The city council recognise this subject is an emotive issue, as families and friends value memorials to loved ones and wish to pay their respects when visiting loved ones’ graves.

“It is also very important to carry out the current levelling and turfing programme to keep burial grounds in good condition.

“Everyone who buries a loved one in a city council cemetery agrees to abide by the conditions that are in place and is provided with details of the regulations in respect of Birmingham City Council cemeteries.

“The restrictions are set out clearly in relation to graves and items permitted upon them. These apply across all city cemeteries, so are not exclusive to Sutton New Hall Cemetery.”

Sutton New Hall Cemetery in Lindridge Road, Sutton Coldfield
Sutton New Hall Cemetery in Lindridge Road, Sutton Coldfield

It continued: “Items put around graves prevent the grounds maintenance from being carried out, which results in complaints from cemetery visitors.

“Issues experienced include encroachment on pathways and neighbouring graves, obstruction of paths resulting in safety hazards, lack of maintenance of the decorations and fencing causing unsightly areas.

“In September, notices were put up asking these items be removed from graves across some sections in Sutton New Hall Cemetery.

The statement added; “The removal of items from graves is due to begin early November and any items families have not removed will be stored for three months to enable their collection.

“As further information during the pandemic, burial and cremation services had to be prioritised and as such the levelling and turfing programme could not be undertaken for a large number of graves. This is now being addressed at cemeteries across the city.

“Any member of the public who has particular difficulty in removing unauthorised items should in the first instance contact the office at Sutton New Hall Cemetery on 0121 303 9444 or e-mail [email protected]

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