Storm Doris – Damaged Churchyard Inspected!

Many of my readers on my social media sites have raised the issue of the Churchyard at Graisley Lane which is in ownership of the St Thomas’s Church. I have taken up the issue, but would remind readers that the Churchyard is in Heath Town Ward, and not in Wednesfield North.

The Churchyard is a ‘Closed Churchyard’ and some responsibilities falls onto the City Council by law. Many Wednesfield families have contacted me with concerns about the safety of the Churchyard following the damage caused by Storm Doris.

Trees were badly damaged and blown down and the graves themselves were hit as well.

IMG_0320 Tree ChurchyardI thanked local resident Paul Banks who did a great job within days of reducing one great tree to manageable proportions.

Now to bring you up-to-date with what is taking place going forward.

A City Council Officer will inspect the grave stones (those that are likely to topple) particular in the area where the tree fell. City Officials will also carry out a visual check of the remaining trees as part of a safety inspection.

Legal Aspect/Closed Churchyards: 

The close church yard regulations state: – Once a churchyard is closed, the Parochial Church Council (PCC) may apply to the LA to take over its maintenance under the Local Govt Act 1972.

Section 215 of the Act states that the LA would be responsible for the maintenance of the churchyard, including the memorials (safety of only/toppling over) and its boundary walls and fences and path surfaces repair of not replace, trees are also included within the boundary walls.

I can inform you that regular maintenance work is carried out at all four closed churchyards in the city that the City Council has responsibility for. This maintenance is around vegetation control (mainly strimming) with caution and weed control via chemical application.

Memorial safety such as laying memorials flat with the diocese permission is carried out when required,

Also topping areas around sunken grave lines, the removal of fallen trees/inspect the trees if they are reported as being dangerous.

Members of City Councils team- As mentioned will carry out a visual inspection of the trees (some fallen trees have since been removed), and a memorial check on headstones.

Regular maintenance such as vegetation control will be carried out at various times during the year depending on growth, weather conditions  and the availability of resources to undertake those works.

The City Council does not have unlimited resources so these measures will be planned. Other issues will fall to the Church to provide, like a higher level of maintenance if they so wish. Plus any new pathways that are required.

I hope that what I have set out here will be seen by Wednesfield families as being a step in the right direction.17155923_ Storm Doris 2017 March Wednesfield Grave yard

I feel that by setting out what will take place, is of huge interest to Wednesfield as a whole.

Over the Municipal Year there will be planned maintenance.

I hope that this information will take some of the controversy out of the issue of whose responsibility the churchyard really is. Whilst some responsibility clearly rests with the Local Authority, the Parochial Church Council itself also retains some responsibilities.

Phil Bateman

Phil Bateman is Married to Mary and lives in Wednesfield North. He was a long serving local politician having served previously on the now defunct West Midlands County Council... read more