Posted: Fri 10th Feb 2023

Flintshire Council to adopt memorials policy amid growing demand for them in open spaces and highways

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Feb 10th, 2023

Flintshire Council is reminding the public that the release of balloons from its land is prohibited as it moves towards adopting a formal memorial policy.

The authority’s environment scrutiny committee met to discuss the formation of a policy due to a growing increase in demand since the pandemic for memorials in its open spaces, countryside and highways.

Chief planning officer Andrew Farrow explained that there is no policy at the moment, so the council struggles to defend decisions to turn down proposals which are unacceptable.

The council does welcome requests and has provided opportunities on an ad-hoc basis for people to purchase trees or benches in memory of a loved one.

But some requests have to be turned down on account of road safety, if the memorial interferes with highway maintenance, or causes a distraction or obstruction to other road users such as pedestrians or cyclists.

The council’s access and natural environment manager Tom Woodall told the meeting that the authority had received more memorial requests since Covid.

He added that it is a sensitive subject, but that the council needs to be mindful of open spaces, highway verges and countryside sites.

The releasing of balloons and lanterns is prohibited due to the potential risks to the countryside of litter, fire, animal welfare and wildlife – something Buckley Bistre West Cllr Dan Rose (Lab) is keen to see enforced.

He said: “I think we should be stepping in and saying no (to balloons).

“It injures livestock, it calls horses, it releases plastic, its litter, it’s a nightmare of a thing that shouldn’t be allowed just like lanterns.”

Cllr Rose asked about memorial trees, with Mr Woodall replying that there are many people who want a tree as a memorial, but officers are not keen on permanent plaques.

A commemorative book for visitor centres or hosted online was suggested as an alternative idea.

And although balloon releases are prohibited from council land such as cemeteries and parks, Mr Woodall added that he was wary of sending staff to confront grieving people about the gesture.

He said: “I’m mindful of my staff going into a group of very emotionally charged people, to become floated all over Facebook as an over-bureaucratic officer.

“I think there could be an opportunity as they come on site to have that conversation but really once they’re on site and they’ve all got the balloons the moment has passed.

“But I do agree with you, out of this we could well publicise it so people know Flintshire’s position, but I do have to be mindful of my staff and putting them into that kind of position.”

Examples of appropriate memorials could include:

Planting an un-marked tree
Planting a hedge or small orchard
Contributing to a woodland planting
Benches
Kissing Gate or small bridges
Installing bird or bat boxes
Conservation of a historic feature
Wildflower planting
Sponsoring an event

Penyffordd Cllr Roy Wakelam (Ind) asked about leaving flowers.

“Could we not specify unwrapped, tied with twine, as for some people that is an important ritual for them in the grieving process”, he said.

Mr Woodman said he would be happy to consider that but try to avoid a rotting compost heap of flowers that no-one picks up. Officers are also reluctant to take something away which has been laid in memory.

He suggested that removal within two weeks could form part of the policy.

Buckley Pentrobin Cllr Mike Peers (Ind) said he was pleased with the proposals.

He said: “I think you’ve done well to recognise the sensitivity and find a way forward that doesn’t impact on the people that are bereaved.”
The council’s cabinet will make a decision on adopting the policy at its next meeting.

By Rory Sheehan – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).

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