New gates planned for Newmarket Cemetery as council bids to stamp out anti-social behaviour
A council has agreed to spend more than £4,500 on new solar-powered gates for Newmarket Cemetery, which will mean it can have set opening and closing times in a bid to improve security.
Members of Newmarket Town Council’s community and leisure services committee heard only last week a dumper truck had become the latest item to be stolen from the cemetery, which over the summer has also seen users report incidents of vandalism and anti-social behaviour.
“Automatic gates will allow us to set opening and closing times for the cemetery,” said town clerk Debbie Baines, who told councillors that solar powered systems had already been tested in cemeteries other parts of West Suffolk and worked satisfactorily.
Town mayor Cllr Michael Jefferys proposed the scheme be accepted. “This is a wonderful opportunity to show we really do believe in green issues,” he said.
Councillors also agreed to proceed with measures to deal with breaches of current cemetery regulations, including items of memorabilia being left on graves.
A report from West Suffolk Council, which runs the area’s cemeteries, said items should not be placed on the grassed area in front of the grave because they interfered with maintenance of the grass, which had to be cut with a sit-on mower. In 2018-19 more than 30 letters were sent out to families who had breached the regulations, asking them to remove items or they would be taken away and stored for collection. But families will be told that if the items are then returned to the grave they will be removed immediately.
Town councillors agreed to work with families to agree up to six items could be kept at the head end of the grave.
Cllr Rachel Hood said: “This is an extremely delicate matter and it is very sad for people even though we understand the parameters under which the cemetery must be run.”
The town council also agreed to start a system under which families will be asked to rent artificial grass matting to lay on graves before natural turf is laid. This is to stop the use by some families of their own artificial grass which is banned by cemetery regulations.
According to the district council report: “Families are buying artificial turf with no intention of natural grass being laid on the graves. Badly laid artificial grass can be a health and safety issue, it could potentially cause serious damage to mowing machinery and in turn the operator.”
Councillors were told families would pay a ‘small fee’ for the matting which would then be re-used. The system was already in use in other West Suffolk cemeteries.