A FAMILY is keen to raise awareness after a battle with Adur District Council over a grave they believed they owned.
Having had their grandfather buried in Mill Lane Cemetery, Shoreham, and the ashes of their grandmother and father interred there, the four siblings thought there would be no problems when their mother died in January.
Malcolm Grinstead, of Greenways Crescent, Shoreham, said they believed they owned the grave as a family but were told the law had changed.
His grandmother, Jessie Grinstead, bought the burial plot in 1957 when her husband, George, was buried there. When she died in the late 1990s, her ashes were buried in the same plot, and the same happened when her son, also George, died in 2008.
But when Malcolm’s mum, Eileen Grinstead, died, they were told they would have to apply for change of ownership, then sign legal documents with a Commissioner for Oaths before the interment could take place.
Mr Grinstead said: “Overall, the attitude from the officer dealing with this at Adur was very unhelpful, with no respect for what we trying to do, just bury our mother’s ashes in a grave we believe we owned. There was no thought of the distress this was causing the family.
We have at last laid our mother to rest, five weeks after her cremation, but there must be a warning here to other people who believe they own a grave in the areaMalcolm Grinstead
“We have at last laid our mother to rest, five weeks after her cremation, but there must be a warning here to other people who believe they own a grave in the area. We are not out to cause trouble, we want to warn people.”
His sister, Paula Eldridge, said the way the council handled it was ‘distasteful’.
She said: “It was simple when we put Dad’s ashes in and we thought it would be the same. They even suggested we had forged the document.
“Mum and Dad had never really been apart in all their time together and all we wanted to do was to bring them together again.”
A spokesman for Adur council explained that in order to reopen a grave, a living person with exclusive rights had to give permission.
“Legally, under Schedule 2 Part II of the Local Authorities’ Cemeteries Order 1977, only the holder of exclusive rights to a grave can give permission for it to be reopened for a new interment.
In order to comply with the 1977 order, we had to ask the family to produce a statutory declaration showing that the rights held by the deceased family member had been transferred to a living person. And to further comply with that order, we also had to ask other family members to renounce any rights to the grave in favour of one person – the exclusive rights holder.
“The need to comply with the law at such an emotional time can seem like an extra burden on a grieving family, but as responsible local authorities, it is something that we must do. Unfortunately this can take some time to do through the proper legal process.”
In this case, the ownership of the grave had transferred to Eileen Grinstead from her mother, Jessie, and it was still in her name when she died.
Family members also had to renounce any rights to the grave in favour of one person.