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Family describe 'hurt' over council crackdown on graveside tributes in North Walsham

PUBLISHED: 12:00 01 August 2018 | UPDATED: 23:53 01 August 2018

Jan Smiles' grave in North Walsham cemetery, where her son Sean has been asked to remove the flower pot from the left hand side. Photo: supplied by Jo Smiles-Hall

Jan Smiles' grave in North Walsham cemetery, where her son Sean has been asked to remove the flower pot from the left hand side. Photo: supplied by Jo Smiles-Hall

Archant

A family in North Walsham have spoken of their hurt after being asked to remove items from a loved one’s grave, in an ongoing dispute with the town council.

Sean Smiles-Hall, 47, a mechanic from North Walsham, pictured with wife Jo, 44, has spoken of his hurt at being asked to remove items from his mum Jan's grave. Photo: supplied by Jo Smiles-HallSean Smiles-Hall, 47, a mechanic from North Walsham, pictured with wife Jo, 44, has spoken of his hurt at being asked to remove items from his mum Jan's grave. Photo: supplied by Jo Smiles-Hall

The number of tributes was limited to two per grave earlier this year, following anger after items placed at gravesides were removed without notice.

Glass, plastics and ceramics have also been banned.

But residents say the rules are being applied unfairly.

Sean Smiles-Hall, a mechanic, who lost his mum Jan to a stroke in October 2016, said: “I got a letter telling me I was breaking health and safety rules.”

Jan Smiles died suddenly aged 67 after suffering a stroke in October 2016. Photo: supplied by Jo Smiles-HallJan Smiles died suddenly aged 67 after suffering a stroke in October 2016. Photo: supplied by Jo Smiles-Hall

Mr Smiles-Hall, 47, was told he had to remove a plastic flower pot from next to his mother’s grave.

He said: “They said if I wanted permission to keep other items I would have to remove the pot.

“I was told I’d get written permission to keep the rest if I removed it.”

He added: “It looks to me like they’re heading towards not wanting anything on the graves.

“Everything on there are things that were special to my mum.

“They’re not hurting anybody. I don’t really see what the issue is.

“You think everything’s settled and it’s just bringing back the hurt every time.”

Read more: Outrage as personal items removed from loved ones’ graves at North Walsham cemetery

Mr Smiles-Hall’s wife Jo, 44, added: “Sean was Jan’s only son and we miss her so very much.

“He was the only one to get a letter, yet there are glass vases and other stuff on peoples’ graves which is against the rules.

“He feels they are singling him out.”

And friend Hayley Wright said: “It’s quite upsetting.

“He hasn’t long lost his mum, and he’s back to that grieving stage.”

Mayor Barry Hester said: “We had two public meetings last year about the issue of items on graves being cleared away.

“The new rules came into force in February and there are still graves with more than two items.”

“All we are doing is enforcing the rules.”

Read more: Investigation promised over ‘devastating’ removal of personal items from North Walsham cemetery

Mr Hester said the limit was introduced due to safety concerns about broken glass.

He said: “There was a lot of tat getting put on graves... plastic windmills, solar lights and that kind of thing you don’t want.”

The council said in a statement posted to social media: “We are making sure everyone adheres to the rules and regulations that came into force in February.

“Anyone not adhering to these rules will be sent a letter asking for removal of non-permitted items.”

Have you been affected by this?

Email Jessica.Frank-Keyes@archant.co.uk

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