WHITCHURCH Town Council is to instruct a professional firm to oversee a £10,000 safety inspection of graves in Whitchurch cemetery.

There are currently around 4,000 graves in Whitchurch cemetery, but many of these are not officially recorded, so headstones or memorials have not officially been safety tested.

At Whitchurch Town Council’s April Cemetery Committee meeting, plans to hire a private firm called Memsafe to undertake the testing were discussed by councillors, who quoted £2.75 per memorial to be safety tested, with the total cost coming to £10,400.

The initial proposal was to accept the quote from Memsafe to inspect the older, tall memorials and requesting that the company spread the cost over five years.

As well as this, it was proposed that the town council could then train a member of staff to then undertake the inspection work.

At April’s full council meeting though, it was suggested this route may have liability risks.

Acting town clerk Zoe Dean said: “The council is in a difficult position at the moment as we don’t have any records, so we don’t know where we are up to with testing.

“I would recommend the council employ someone to do all the testing so we know where we are starting from in order to safeguard the council.

“After covid there will be much more activities going on at the Civic Centre, so it will be much harder to pass on outdoor work [to the facilities team].

“This company offered to spread the cost over five years.

“I would be concerned about even just training staff now, how far does the training go – If you leave it to the professionals, they know.

“In local parishes to Whitchurch, people have tested memorial stones which have been damaged.

“These have been claimed on the insurance and it has been very expensive.”

Councillor Simon Hamlyn agreed with the clerk’s recommendations, saying: “It would make sense to me, to do all the stones to make a base line for the future so we have a detailed record from day one.”

Cllr Alan Chesters also suggested it would be a good idea to accept the recommendations.

“Frankly I’m in favour of the five-year job,” said Cllr Chesters. “It doesn’t seem like an extraordinary amount of money.

“Providing the agreement is watertight, we will have a total update and a complete record of all stones.”

Cllr Bev Duffy proposed that Memsafe test all memorials and spread cost over five years, which was approved by councillors.