Council notice on memorial bench described as 'insensitive'

Council notice on memorial bench described as 'insensitive'

by Tom Martin (November 2021)

SEFTON Council has been described as “insensitive” after they left a notice at a memorial bench saying they will be forced to remove flowers and plants because they can “damage the protected area and wildlife.”

A dog walker called Dominic Gillies, who walks past the bench in Hillside every day, hit out at the local authority and said he was “shocked” to read the notice.

It states that the flowers and plants left on top of the bench, which is dedicated to ‘Mary Roberson’, will be removed on December 10.

After the Champion published an article online about the notice, Mary’s friend, Jane Thompson, contacted us to say she is also unhappy with the council and that she wants the bench decorations to stay.

Jane told the Champion: “My best friend Mary died of ovarian cancer five years ago leaving behind two children and a husband. She was the friendliest person with a huge smile. She was actually from Hawaii.

“We clubbed together and got a memorial bench where I walk my dog so I see it every day. It’s been there over four years and no one has ever complained before.

“A group of us go at Christmas and decorate the bench and have mulled wine and play her favourite music. The council want everything removed from the bench by 10th December including a memorial vase.

“I am happy to decorate with natural materials if they think it will somehow damage the environment. It saddens us all and seems unnecessary. Why have they left it for four years if it’s a problem? Mary’s ashes were sprinkled in the sea in Hawaii and she has no grave so this is all we have.”

The council notice states in full: "Whilst we all share the sadness that comes when someone passes, it is not possible for us to allow memorials to perpetuate with signs, offerings and added flowers / baskets in the nature reserves.

"This can be damaging to the protected areas, and wildlife, and can affect the enjoyment of other visitors, and is therefore not compatible with the location.

"Of course, our deepest sympathies are with those of you who have lost loved ones, and we are very sorry if this causes any offence, we do assure you that none is intended.

"The council does have official memorial locations based on the cemeteries and crematoria and we believe that this is a much more suitable, sustainable and appropriate way forward for these types of memorial gestures.

"We are posting this notice to inform you that we will clear this location of the memorial offerings by Friday 10th December 2021.

"Should you wish to remove them before this date, then of course you are very welcome to do so. Thank you for your understanding. Sefton Council"

A Sefton Council spokesperson told the Champion said: “We intended no offence to be taken by the notice placed next to a memorial bench in the Birkdale Local Nature Reserve area.

“We do all that we can to support those who wish to commission memorials in memory of loved ones, and our cemeteries and crematoriums provide permanent, lasting sites of remembrance. We do also have some locations available for memorial benches at parks, along our coast, and at green spaces across the Borough so that people have alternative places to spend time and reflect.

“While these locations are beautiful and extremely popular with our visitors, they are also environmentally sensitive. Our coastline is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) so the Council has a duty to ensure that the area is effectively and appropriately managed to protect and conserve it.

“We do ask people when they commission memorials benches, that no other items or tributes are attached to the seat other than the agreed plaque.

"The same goes for planting or planters around the bench. This is to ensure that no plastics or other harmful materials, or non-native species, can affect the diverse flora and fauna that is protected by law at our coastal areas.

“We make clear that we can remove any items of concern in order to protect these important habitats, and to ensure that members of the public can have safe and enjoyable access to these sites.”

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