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.


Who the Guidance applies to

14. The purpose of this document is to give guidance to local authorities about procedures to assist making memorials safe and to provide a safe environment in burial grounds. The guidance may also be of use to any private, non-local authority burial authority to assist their ongoing management of ground(s) under their control.

Wider Scope

15. This guidance can also act as a first step towards an authority drawing together or updating a comprehensive burial ground management plan. This may include all elements of burial ground management in addition to memorials e.g. boundary walls, burial aisles, ruined structures, railings, soil conditions, roads and path infrastructure, vegetation and trees, lighting, etc.

Application of Guidance

16. Local authorities can review and consider this document in conjunction with their local requirements. Full implementation of a comprehensive, fully recorded and robust memorial inspection programme, if not already in place, will require significant time to implement. Failure to effectively monitor and manage burial grounds, including both modern and historic memorials (and larger memorial structures) within burial grounds under local authority control presents a risk to the local authority, its employees and visitors to burial grounds.

17. The recognition of potential risks and the removal of an immediate hazard can be the overriding aim of any authority inspection programme. When planning, cataloguing or zoning areas within burial grounds to inspect all memorials, individual circumstances will contribute to any risk presented by a memorial.

18. The sections below set out a number of topics which will be relevant for any local authority inspection programme, along with suggestions of how to enhance that programme's effectiveness.

19. All information set out is not exhaustive or prescriptive, and instead may act as a reference or guide for implementing a more comprehensive memorial inspection programme.

Definition of a Memorial

20. The design, construction and materials used for memorials across Scotland is very diverse. There are a number of terms used to describe various types of memorials e.g. modern lawn type, monolith, large traditional, obelisk, cross and die, full grave headstone with kerbs, ledger, tablets, etc. Memorials may also be items embedded in larger structures and buildings.

21. Of overriding importance is that every assessor involved in any memorial inspection programme possesses a common understanding of the descriptors and definitions used by their burial authority. For example, this may be achieved through the use of specific photographic examples provided during training and by consistently using agreed definitions when recording inspection results.

22. Subsequently, the actions employed for assessment, inspection and making safe are dependent on each memorial's size, stone type, its orientation (lean), its method of construction and overall condition. Any associated factors that currently or may potentially affect a memorial's stability, such as subsidence, soil erosion, tree roots, adjacent excavations etc. can also be taken into account.


Email: katrina.mcneill@gov.scot

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