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.

Future Proofing

78. As the nature of burial grounds and of burial change over time, the management of these sites can also change. For example, burial grounds can now offer access to valuable city 'green space' while still providing a direct link to the heritage of a village, town or city. This may mean the associated management of burial grounds considers how a variety of users and visitors with varying interests are kept safe. Ensuring memorial safety is a significant element of this safe access.

Preventative Maintenance

79. Concerns or issues with memorial safety may be mitigated through the general process of routine maintenance of a burial ground.

80. A holistic approach to memorial management, one which considers not only the memorial but the site maintenance too, is encouraged. Grounds maintenance regimes may compromise memorial stability as weed killer and other herbicides can trigger stone decay and soil erosion. Contact from grass cutting equipment has the potential to cause significant damage. A less intensive approach to grass cutting and weed control may assist in preventing deterioration to any memorial and this maintenance may also include routinely cutting back ivy, tree roots, other vegetation etc.

81. Consultation with other relevant or interested parties e.g. community groups within a burial ground may also contribute to a more effective programme of general maintenance being developed and implemented.

Minimum Standards of Memorial Installation

82. Setting minimum standards of memorial installation e.g. to BS8415-2018 is an option for burial authorities. For example, this may also include requiring a minimum standard of foundation for all new memorials. Ensuring memorials are constructed and installed to a set standard will build in significant protection and alleviate potentially complex repairs in the future. Professional organisations representing memorial masons may be able to advise on how to best approach this.

83. In conjunction with a minimum standards policy, the application of a memorial mason registration scheme can also be considered, by either creating a local one or joining existing national registration schemes, and will complement such a policy. This can confirm all memorial masons operating in a local authority burial ground are appropriately qualified and insured to install new memorials in accordance to an agreed standard.

Continual Review of Industry Standards

84. To assist in the managing of a memorial inspection programme, a number of industry codes of practice are in place to assist with maintaining memorial standards, which may be referred to by a burial authority. Such guidance can provide extensive detail and instruction on how memorials of varying shape, size and construction can be approached in order to be made safe.

Community Engagement

85. To build ownership within the community, visitors or local groups could be encouraged to engage and become involved in supporting burial ground management through "friends of" or other community groups. At the discretion of a burial authority, volunteers may be able to generally assist in the identification of certain memorials or flag to a burial authority what appears to be sections of a ground requiring attention.

86. However, volunteers should not be used to visually or physically inspect memorials to assess their safety. This should only be undertaken by appropriately trained and qualified burial authority assessors or other specialists, such as a structural engineer.


Email: katrina.mcneill@gov.scot

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