Burial ground memorial safety: local authority guidance

Guidance to assist local authorities meet their obligations to inspect and make safe memorials and headstones in local authority burial grounds.


104. The table below highlights an 'at a glance' description of elements which can be included in any inspection programme.



Planned Outcome

Inspection Programme

Agree a policy.

Consult the stakeholders:

  • lair-holders and public,
  • staff and senior management,
  • local authority architects or structural engineers,
  • other statutory bodies,
  • memorial masons,
  • funeral directors,
  • elected members of local authority,
  • relevant community groups or interest groups.

Publish the policy and commit to review the policy.

This allows an authority the chance to produce a policy that considers all its elements and may create a practical and workable process of inspections.

By publishing and subsequently reviewing the policy at a set date the authority can ensure that all elements meet with current good practice and continue to reflect stakeholder input.


Assess the availability of specific training from organisations such as:

  • FBCA
  • ICCM
  • NAMM
  • independent specialist

There are a range of training opportunities, most of which will meet a recognised standard e.g. provided by trade representative bodies. Before deciding on which training best meets the needs of your circumstances, it may be worth providing the training agency with a copy of your inspection policy. In some circumstances the agency may assist in the preparation of a policy.

Site and Zoning Risk Assessment

Complete a process of prioritising the sequence of inspections across all locations e.g. identifying memorials in one burial ground as the first to be inspected, and memorials in a second burial ground as a lower risk to be inspected after, and so on.

Referencing criteria listed earlier in this guidance, assess all the burial grounds under your control. A score rating may be used e.g. the higher the frequency of visitors, higher the score would be. By applying this to each criteria, a total score will provide each site with a rating for categorising inspections.

Once this zoning assessment has provided a priority of action, use the same criteria in each burial ground to provide a priority of actions in each site.

Where relevant, specialist advice can be sought.

Where necessary, consents or licences should be obtained.


Notify all relevant parties. This may include:

  • lair owners,
  • memorial masons,
  • funeral directors,
  • elected members of local authority,
  • relevant organisations which may have an interest in the memorial e.g. local authority archaeology and conservation advisors, HES, CWGC, community councils, city heritage trusts, friends groups etc.

The widespread publication of the inspection programme and what it aims to achieve may ease the anticipated impact of any action. Notices, examples of which provided earlier in this guidance, can also provide contact information and explain the on-going nature of the programme.


  • inspect all memorials,
  • record all inspections,
  • record all actions,
  • identify when re-inspections will take place,
  • complete inspections.

The inspection programme may include all memorials within the burial ground. By applying a detailed risk assessment to each memorial the most suitable course of action may be identified.

Referencing guidance earlier in the document, a record of inspections can list the factors assessed, the basis for the outcome, the action taken and also the expected time period before re-assessment.

Making Safe

  • repair,
  • cordoning,
  • sinking in/trenching,
  • staking and tying,
  • laying flat,
  • ground or section closure.

Some or all of the listed processes earlier in this guidance for making safe may be applied within a single burial ground. Before deciding on what to use, the on-going maintenance and scale of use of each process should be evaluated. Other methods of making safe may be identified by the authority as being appropriate to undertake.

Referring to an expert or outside specialist may however be the best way to fully ensure memorial safety in a burial ground.


  • lair owner,
  • visitors,
  • management,
  • staff,
  • scheduled monument or listed status – appropriate notification to relevant authority e.g. HES.

Whilst making direct contact with a lair owner of any memorial may be difficult, a record of the outcome of any inspection should be recorded against the appropriate entry in a lair register. It is also important to ensure necessary stakeholders are aware of the outcome of inspections. In addition it is important to ensure an effective process is in place to advise management (and possibly elected council members) of outcome of inspections.

Where necessary, the need for consents or licences for proposed management measures should be identified.


Fully review the policy and its processes at agreed, set intervals.

As good practice, this entire memorial inspection programme will benefit from regular and scheduled review. This ensures that all elements retain appropriate effectiveness.


Email: katrina.mcneill@gov.scot

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