Concerns about vandalism have been raised by residents following Gainsborough Town Council’s decision to keep the cemetery gates open 24 hours a day.
The Town Council are currently undertaking a six month trial of allowing pedestrian access to Gainsborough Cemetery 24 hours a day.
This has raised concerns with residents and councillors about the risk of headstones getting damaged or vandalised.
Coun Trevor Young said: “Before the cemetery was transferred to the town council there was a huge amount of vandalism. Graves were smashed on a regular basis, pushed over and there was all sorts of anti social behaviour and alcohol and drug issues.
“The gates are now being left open and the issues has been raised by myself and other residents.
“We have raised it at full council.
“It is also my understanding that there is also a vehicle post which restricts vehicles going on to the site after 4pm and at the weekend. This is a mobility problem. Elderly people are not being able to get on the large cemetery area. It is a big area so it is easier to drive a vehicle to the bottom of the cemetery.
“They are restricting people getting on the site during certain hours, especially at weekends.
“This is a huge problem in term of people being able to access the site.
“Now the gates are open all the time the damage will return and when it does the reputation is going to cause significant problems to the town council.
“This is a really emotive issue and sensitive issue and one which effects a lot of people.”
Matthew Gleadell, clerk at the town council, said: Councillors at Gainsborough Town Council are currently undertaking a six month trial at the General Cemetery during which time the site is to be left open 24 hours a day. Some residents have become concerned about the site being left open overnight and are worried about damage to headstones.
“Many cemeteries and graveyards across the country are unsecured sites and remain open for public access at all times. Sadly as a society we do experience anti social behaviour and there are misguided individuals out there that will cause damage to headstones. I personally would contend that such individuals that are willing to engage in such behaviour are unlikely to be deterred by a locked gate and will find a way into the cemetery anyway.
“I understand there have been cases of vandalism to headstones in the past. I do not believe however that locking a gate is the sole remedy to prevent this from happening. Perhaps other security measures should also be considered such as CCTV or security patrols however the public must be mindful that any steps taken come at a cost with that cost ultimately funded by the tax payer. With growing pressure on public funds and further funding cuts from central Government likely the councillors have to scrutinise every penny spent.
“I personally have relatives in the cemetery but would prefer to see the several thousand pounds of tax payers money it costs to pay for a staff member or contractor to lock the gates spent on other services. Equally I appreciate the right for others to take a different view. Equally I am thankful that I live in a society where members of the public are free to express their views have a freedom of speech and press and have a democratic ability to challenge community leaders over their decisions. Sadly there are parts of the world where such rights do not exist.
“I am not presently aware of any issues over limited vehicular access. If anything the gates being open longer actually increases vehicular access.”