Scarborough Council will shortly begin the process of removing illegal graveside memorials from two of its cemeteries.
The borough council wants to remove items including plants and trees that have been planted in its Woodlands Cemetery in Scarborough and Larpool Cemetery in Whitby.
The council agreed last year to start enforcing Memorial Decorations Policy more strictly after more than 400 breaches of the policy were found in the Scarborough cemetery alone.
Jonathan Bramley, the council’s Environment and Countryside manager, told a meeting of the authority’s Overview and Scrutiny Board that work would begin before March in the oldest section of the cemetery.
He said: “The work will start in Section B of Woodlands where the plots date back to the 1940s and 50s as we feel we can just move in and remove the breaches without needing to contact the plot owner due to the age of the plots.”
He said many of the issues related to plants and trees where roots were spreading to neighbouring plots and that when the work got to the newer parts of the cemetery then letters would be sent to the plot holder and face-to-face meetings could also take place.
Cllr Tony Randerson (Lab) said he worried about the possible removal of memorials from the baby and children’s area of the cemeteries and the distress it could cause to families.
“It is our intention not to enforce the policy in these areas,” Mr Bramley confirmed.
He added that a petition was started last year against the policy but that it only gained three signatures.
He added: “There was a mistaken belief that this was a new policy from the council when in fact we are just enforcing a policy we already had in place.”
Cllr Godfrey Allanson (Con) said policies like Scarborough’s were commonplace.
He said: “You have to remember that some people may be offended if they have a loved one’s grave next to a plot with lights on or something like that. It is a sensitive issue. There are rules in all churchyards, this isn’t a council being bureaucratic.”
Carl Gavaghan , Local Democracy Reporting Service