Unsafe headstones to be checked by council

If a headstone is found to be very unsafe, it will be made safe as soon as possible.
If a headstone is found to be very unsafe, it will be made safe as soon as possible.

The potentially sensitive task of making headstones safe is currently being undertaken by Scottish Borders Council staff.

The local authority’s programme of headstone testing continues this month – and several of the region’s graveyards are on the list.

Sections of 18 cemeteries will be tested over a six-month period in a bid to make sure that anyone who visits or works in the 154 cemeteries the council is responsible for is safe.

However, only the older and larger memorials in these cemeteries, the ones which carry a greater risk to public safety, are being inspected.

Councillor Sandy Aitchison, the council’s executive member for neighbourhoods and locality services, said: “We know how important cemeteries are to communities and families which is why it is vital we make sure these public places are safe.

“The council is fully aware that this is a sensitive matter and will ensure the work is undertaken with due respect and only where absolutely necessary.

“This is a big programme of inspections, with around 17,500 of the 90,000 headstones in our cemeteries being tested, and as a result we have tried to let as many people know as possible.

“I would encourage anyone who is seeking more information to visit our website for further details.”

In an effort to make the public aware of the latest inspections, the council is putting up signage at each affected cemetery, posters and flyers are being distributed in communities, stakeholder updates are being issued and a dedicated webpage – www.scotborders.gov.uk/headstonetesting – has been created.

The webpage contains a video providing details on how the testing takes place and why it is needed, maps of each area of the 18 cemeteries which will be inspected and FAQs.

The webpage will also be updated with estimated dates for inspections at each cemetery as the project progresses ... Earlston Old Cemetery being the first to be tested in week commencing Monday, September 24.

The testing process starts with a memorial being checked to see if it is safe. If deemed unsafe it will be cordoned off, and signage put in place to make the public and family members aware of the issue.

However, if there is an immediate safety concern, the memorial will be made safe as soon as possible.

If the memorial is cordoned off, the family – who is responsible for the memorial – can contact the council and arrange for the headstone to be made safe themselves.

In all, the programme will last five years, using a phased approach of inspections, based on footfall, age, location and other factors.