Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Memoranda


Memorandum by the Memorial Awareness Board (CEM 57)

  1.  The Memorial Awareness Board (MAB) is a campaigning organisation working to raise awareness of memorialisation and bereavement issues and promote the memorial industry.

  The Executive Committee of MAB comprises of memorial masonry wholesalers and retailers, a funeral director, a member of the Confederation of Burial Authorities and representatives from the National Association of Memorial Masons.

  MAB is actively involved in many industry initiatives and with other organisations.

  The latest industry news is contained in The Bulletin, MAB's bi-monthly magazine. The Bulletin also contains features, profiles of memorial masons and cemeteries and regular columns from the industry's opinion leaders.

..... current MAB campaigns

2.  CEMETERY OF THE YEAR AWARDS (CYA)

  Since the first CYA in 1998, MAB has co-sponsored and organised the competition with the Confederation of Burial Authorities and the National Association of Memorial Masons.

  The CYA was devised for two reasons: to encourage and reward high standards amongst Britain's cemeteries and to raise public awareness in the role that cemeteries play within the community. Cemeteries can be an important local resource in areas where no other open space exists and they also provide a wealth of historical, social and ecological information. Entrants are assessed on a range of aspects including design, maintenance, facilities, choice and community involvement.

3.  FREEDOM OF CHOICE CAMPAIGN

  Across the country, the bereaved are being denied their freedom in memorial choice due to the enforcement of unjustifiable regulations by burial authorities. In response to growing public demand, MAB and the National Association of Memorial Masons launched an ongoing campaign in May 1999 to improve freedom of choice by raising public awareness of the issue and fighting for the relaxation of unnecessary rules.

  Currently MAB is working on the specific areas of memorials for cremated remains and traditional kerbset memorials.

  The type of memorial offered for cremated remains is not on a par with other memorials and many burial authorities ban kerbset memorials apparently for maintenance reasons. However, these positions are not sustainable and cemeteries are beginning to relax their regulations to allow greater freedom to grave owners.

4.  ROADSHOWS

  MAB has organised several regional Roadshows recently to promote memorialisation issues to local communities. The audiences typically include memorial masons, funeral directors, cemetery managers, council representatives and members of the public.

5.  THE ENVIRONMENTAL SIGNIFICANCE OF CEMETERIES

  Cemeteries often contain a surprising amount of wildlife and can be the only area in a borough where the natural habitat survive.

  Many cemeteries work in partnership with local environmental groups to ensure that their site are a haven for wild flora and fauna. Cemeteries such as Park Avenue Cemetery in Sheffield now cultivate naturalised areas. Another good example is Alperton Cemetery in Wembley which has a wildlife area which includes bird boxes and is visited by foxes, frogs, owls and slow worms.

  A great number of cemeteries have recycling schemes such as shredding tree cuttings and old fencing and using the remnants for shrub beds and borders. Many recycle green waste composting.

  It is important that we should appreciate the environmental significance of cemeteries as they are sometimes the only green area within a borough.

  Projects such as the Living Churchyard and Cemetery project encourage the enhancement of wildlife and its habitat in churchyards and burial grounds through conservation management.

6.  THE HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF OUR CEMETERIES

  Cemeteries are rich sources of information and social history.

  Britains cemeteries all have hidden treasures, they are places which are rich in culture and heritage.

  Cemeteries are a great way to find out the age of a community and its ethnic composition. The style of the headstones, the symbolism of their art and their inscriptions reflect religious beliefs, social class and values, as well as cultural change over time.

  It is important that people be made aware of the educational opportunities which can be found in cemeteries and just how much they have to offer.

  The London Borough of Brent for instance has produced a brochure detailing the local heritage to be found in their cemeteries and fans of J R R Tolkein, author of The Hobbit, can visit his grave at Oxford's Wolvercote Cemetery, details of which appear in The Tolkein Society's local guide.

  The Living Churchyard and Cemetery Project encourages the educational use of churchyards and burial grounds.

7.  THE CONDITION OF EXISTING CEMETERIES

  Some cemeteries do suffer from neglect, it is certainly a topic which dominates in the press.

  For those with family buried in well-maintained cemeteries, the visiting experience can be supportive, encouraging more frequent visits and greater attention to upkeep of plots over long periods to time. Good upkeep of the grounds may also encourage a shared sense of community among mourners, providing informal support for those who may have reduced networks of kin and friends.

  Schemes such as the Cemetery of the Year awards encourage cemetery managers to keep their cemeteries maintained to the highest standards.

  Other issues concerning the condition of existing cemeteries are safety and vandalism.

  1. THE ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE DETR AND OTHER GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES, IN THE MANAGEMENT AND PROTECTION OF CEMETERIES AND PUBLIC POLICY ON CEMETERIES AND CREMATORIA.

  MAB sees the roles and responsibilities of the DETR and other Government Departments and Agencies as follows:

    (a)  to oblige local authorities to make adequate provision of burial space for the needs of communities;

    (b)  to ensure there is sufficient funding for the provision of burial space;

    (c)  to legislate for improvements in the administration of cemeteries so that they are not so restrictive with their regulations and offer the bereaved more freedom of choice;

    (d)  to refuse approaches from bodies representing cemeteries which want to be allowed to sell memorials as this would result inevitably in a restriction of the type of memorial being offered to the public; and

    (e)  to permit the sale of graves under renewable leases and the recycling of existing graves in areas where there is a shortage.

9.  LONG-TERM PLANNING FOR NEW CEMETERIES AND BURIAL SPACE

  The issue of space is now becoming increasingly pressing. MAB takes the view that local authorities should be addressing this issue, looking at the number of graves available and therefore the expected life of the cemetery. They should look to purchase more land adjacent to the current cemetery or open new cemeteries in the area. It is imperative that where burial land is in short supply, old graves are recycled and new ones sold on renewable leases.

10.  THE MANAGEMENT AND PROVISION OF CEMETERY SERVICES.

  It is essential that government subsidies should be available where necessary. The Ideal Cemetery Brochure has been produced to persuade politicians (local and national) that there is a need for cemeteries to receive more funding. See Appendix A.

11.  THE FUNDING AND ECONOMIC VIABILITY OF CEMETERIES, INCLUDING FUNDING FROM NATIONAL LOTTERY DISTRIBUTING BODIES.

  The provision of cemeteries throughout the country is an important public service and cemeteries can never be fully self-sufficient. Cemeteries will always require public money. It may be possible to run a cemetery using the funds generated from fees charged from the sale of new graves or re-opening old graves for second interments. However, the capital required to set up a new cemetery or extend an existing one has to come from Local Government, Central Government or the National Lottery

  Two important points would help the funding of cemeteries. The first is to allow cemeteries to retain all revenue they receive from fees for the sale of graves and the permission to allow memorials to be erected and inscriptions added. Secondly, the recycling of graves could raise additional funds.

  What would not be acceptable would be for burial authorities to engage in the retail sale of memorials to the public to raise funds. The MAB believes that the sale of memorials by burial authorities is unlawful, unfair and will result in a reduction of choice to the consumer.

December 2000


 
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