Dozens of headstones in Margate cemetery’s Garden of Rest have been branded unsafe and marked with yellow warning notices.
The memorial stones have failed stability tests being carried out by Thanet council as part of a five year programme.
Headstones which fail a test are banded to a wooden post to prevent the memorial from falling and any further damage. When it is not possible to make a memorial safe using this method, the headstone is laid flat in the grave space.
A Thanet council spokesman said: “For all memorials failing the test, a notice is placed on the memorial and contact details given for the cemeteries and crematorium office for further advice. For those cemeteries where Thanet District Council holds the exclusive right of burial registers, letters are also sent to the last recorded owner.
“Thanet District Council understands the sensitivity surrounding the testing programme and carries out the works sympathetically.
“The current area at Margate Cemetery undergoing testing is one of the older parts of the Garden of Rest. These memorials predate 2003 when the use of a ground anchoring system became a requirement, hence the number of memorials affected.”
The headstones that are deemed unsafe will be supported with a wooden post for up to 12 months. The listed owner of the burial rights will receive a letter and then have those 12 months to contact a stonemason to complete repair works. If a person chooses not to have repairs carried out the memorial will be laid flat. The council says “if this poses an additional risk or a trip hazard, as a last resort, the memorial may need to be removed.”
Repairs have to be carried out by a qualified stonemason and can cost several hundred pounds.
In Thanet there are approximately 100,000 memorials and each will be tested for stability. Before testing takes place in any of Thanet’s cemeteries or closed churchyards, notices are displayed and placed in a local paper advising of the date and duration.
Further information can be found at https://www.thanet.gov.uk/info-pages/memorial-stability/
Thanet council has confirmed there are currently discussions about a change of policy. If agreed unstable memorials will remain against a stake for five years. The stone will then be sunk partly under the ground, with the inscription remaining visible, without the owner have to pay.
The council has inspected 3,890 memorials with 1,997 deemed unstable due to being put in place before rules requiring an anchoring system.