Mother’s fears for tributes left on son’s grave

Anger over removal of fences around graves at Snell Hatch Cemetery, Crawley. Chantal Parker at Alfie's grave. Pic Steve Robards SR1706037 SUS-170327-151016001

Anger over removal of fences around graves at Snell Hatch Cemetery, Crawley. Chantal Parker at Alfie's grave. Pic Steve Robards SR1706037 SUS-170327-151016001

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The heartbroken mum of a boy who died while on holiday has spoken of her fear that tributes will be removed from his grave.

Alfie Gray drowned in a tragic accident while on holiday in Egypt in 2015.

Anger over removal of fences around graves at Snell Hatch Cemetery, Crawley. Natasha Davis, with her children Liam and Sophie at Natasha's mother's grave. Pic Steve Robards SR1706046 SUS-170327-151056001

Anger over removal of fences around graves at Snell Hatch Cemetery, Crawley. Natasha Davis, with her children Liam and Sophie at Natasha's mother's grave. Pic Steve Robards SR1706046 SUS-170327-151056001

The seven-year-old was buried at Snell Hatch Cemetery, West Green, and his grave is always filled with tributes and flowers.

His mother, Chantal Parker, was contacted by Crawley Borough Council last year asking her to remove the fences around his grave.

Now, Alfie’s Aunt, Natasha Davis, has received a call to tell her fences around her mother’s grave in the cemetery must be taken down.

Chantal was heartbroken and worried she would be asked to do the same at Alfie’s grave. She said: “He has always had so much stuff down there from friends, family, from his football team, there is always something there. There’s Christmas presents and birthday presents which my children have got for him put up there. It is worrying me that they are going to come for us. I am going to fight for Alfie and for everybody. My heart is bleeding for everybody, I just want it to stop now.”

Chantal has been driving to the cemetery several times a day to check if Alfie’s tributes had been removed. She added: “It is not giving us closure. It should be a place you should go to and feel at peace.”

Natasha was outraged by the decision and said she had been told by the council everyone with fences was being asked to remove them. “I don’t want people walking over my mother,” she said. “It makes me feel that my mother is safe having that little fence around her.”

The council confirmed that owners of two graves in the adult section had been contacted. A spokesman said: “We don’t turf graves immediately after a burial has taken place to allow for the disturbed ground to settle naturally. The settlement process can also require that the grave space is topped up with soil to bring it to the level of the surrounding ground. Once fully settled the grave space is then turfed so it’s in keeping with the existing graves in the lawn sections of the cemetery. We recognise that this is a very sensitive subject and this is why, like other cemeteries, we have regulations in place that help everyone to understand what to expect. Grieving is a very personal thing and what one individual or family considers appropriate can be very different from another individual or family. This includes grave spaces so we try to maintain a consistent approach across Snell Hatch Cemetery, while remaining acutely aware how sensitive this subject is. Before making any changes to existing arrangements in the children’s section we would seek the views of existing grave owners.”

Councillor Geraint Thomas, Cabinet member for Environmental Services and Sustainability, added: “I’d like to clarify Crawley Borough Council’s position and explain how we deal with this sensitive subject.

“On occasion it is necessary for the council to write to individual grave owners to remind them of the current regulations, which have been in place since 2010.

“The majority of contacts that we make to grave owners are either to let them know that the ground has settled sufficiently to enable turf to be put down, or to let them know that, for the council to turf a grave, items on that grave will need to be moved out of harm’s way.

“Unfortunately, not all the letters that are sent out by the council receive a response and, without that communication between the grave owner and the council, it is very difficult to reach agreement on how to proceed.

“Loss of a loved one is an individual thing, as is how that love is expressed and we are very aware that this includes a grave space.

“The council recognises that it is potentially painful for grave owners to be limited in what they do on a grave space by the current cemetery rules. This is why the council tries to open a dialogue with families before any possibility of action.

“It is also important for us to recognise the equally valid emotions that can be experienced by families that do keep their graves within the requirements of the regulations when their neighbours do not.

“Cemeteries, by their very nature, are a limited choice and when a loved one is laid to rest their friends and family become part of a community. As with most communities, there is a wealth of diversity, both individuals and families. Ensuring that everybody gets along can be very challenging and that is the purpose of the regulations, to help all in the community to understand what to expect and what is expected of others.

“Periodically the council will review the regulations, to check that they meet the needs of residents. The council is currently in the process of reviewing the regulations and we would welcome any views from residents on what is important to them via email at facilities@crawley.gov.uk or writing to Facilities, Town Hall, The Boulevard, Crawley RH10 1UZ.”

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