Overgrown churchyards in Skegness spark petition

Overgrown grass in churchyards across Skegness have sparked a new petition after residents aired concerns elderly visitors could fall and injure themselves.

Pamela Ellis and Julie Gray in St Clement's Churchyard.
Pamela Ellis and Julie Gray in St Clement's Churchyard.

The petition - St Mary's and St Clement's Churchyards Grass Cutting Campaign - outlines a growing number of problems occurring following the decisions of churches to allow cemeteries to return to "God's Acre" because they cannot afford to cut the grass.

Pamela Ellis and Julie Gray, who launched the petition, have relatives buried in the cemeteries and say everyone will lose someone they love and some time and "their final resting place should be well-kept and respected".

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However, a spokesperson for the group of churches responsible for the churchyards says that, sadly, they simply cannot afford to pay for grass cutting and allowing churchyards to return to God's Acre is "a more eco friendly way of looking after the churchyards".

Julie Gray, Pamela Ellis and Coun Julie Sadler in St Mary's Churchyard.

A site meeting took place on Saturday between Pamela Ellis and Julie Gray and Coun Julie Sadler - a member of the Skegness Town Council Church Yard Maintenance Group which was formed to find a solution when the problems first started to arise last year.

At the time there had also been complaints about overgrown bushes on the path leading to St Clement's Cemetery from Lincoln Road. These were raised with East Lindsey District Council by Coun Richard Cunnington, who said ELDC "kindly sent a team out to clear the area".

In the past the churches have paid Skegness Town Council, who run and maintain St Mary's Cemetery, to cut the grass in both the old St Mary's churchyard and at St Clement's.

Skegness Town Council clerk Steve Larner said: "The Council reduced the cost of the service to the Church from the original fees charged in 2013/14 and 2020/21 when the Church said they could no longer afford the service.

Pamela Ellis by the overflowing bins in St Mary's Churchyard.

"The Council has been faced with increased costs of staff, insurance, fuel, but I offered to look at the level of service we offered in order to maintain the fee charged in 2020/21 and continue with some form of maintenance."

Following last week's council meeting, which was attended by Pamela Ellis and Julie Gray, councillors wrote to the Bishop of Lincoln and the Bishop of Grimsby to convey residents’ disappointment at the decision and lack of consultation by the church when deciding to stop maintenance. Coun Sadler will report back to the council Church Yard Maintenance Group on her meeting.

In the meantime, the petition says that a decision to stop cutting the grass should not have been made "without of voices of local people being heard".

Julie added she had bought a new stone under church regulations just four years ago, but now wasn't even sure if legally she was able to even cut the grass around it.

"Some of my relatives graves are getting lost under the overgrowth," she said. "It's disheartening when you see all the weeds growing over where you know the people who are buried there."

Pamela has a number of residents buries at St Mary's, including a son and daughter.

"The weeds are terrible - it is so sad," she said. "The rubbish is also a big problem. The bins are always overflowing."

The Skegness Standard spoke to the Rev Richard Holden, the Rector of the Skegness Group of Parishes, who said: "Until recently we paid the town council to maintain the churchyard but we were asked for a significant increase in the amount we pay yearly when we were struggling to pay the current amount.

"Sadly we had to finish our arrangement with the council because we simply cannot afford the prices they wanted to charge.

"I know that there are some of the local councillors who are working to have the churchyards maintained at a more affordable level.

"The Covid pandemic has also badly affected church finances so we had to look for another solution.

"The Parochial Church Council decided to allow the churchyard to return to a more natural state and to become "God's Acre" which is a more eco friendly way of looking after the churchyards.

"The bins are a problem at St. Mary's as the council workers no longer empty them and they fill up very quickly and people then pack things around them.

"There is a larger bin in the cemetery but the church bins are more obvious as people walk past them to get to the cemetery. I think that people using the cemetery put their rubbish in the church bins rather than the council one.

"I have tried to keep on top of it myself and have emptied the bins but they fill up very quickly.

"The church has a tiny congregation and are unable to look after the bins. If anybody would like to volunteer to help maintain the churchyards and keep the bin area clear we would be interested in having a conversation."

To support the petition visit St Mary's and St Clement's Churchyards Grass Cutting Campaign on change.org