Green party group leader Claire Stephenson at Earlham cemetery, where signs are to be put up reminding motorists of the 5mph speed limit.  Photo: Bill Smith

‘Driving through the cemetery is totally unacceptable as a shortcut’ - speed limit at Norwich cemetery aims to stop rat-running

Sunday, January 27, 2013
12.00 PM

A speed limit is to be introduced at a city cemetery to discourage impatient motorists from using it as a short cut.

Norwich City Council will use speed signs to warn of Earlham Cemetery’s new 5mph restriction after deciding speed bumps could cause problems for hearses and funeral corteges.

Mourners and council staff have lodged complaints about vehicles cutting through the burial site to travel between Bowthorpe Road and Earlham Road.

The route through the cemetery could be redesigned if the problems continue.

A city council spokeswoman said: “We can’t use speed bumps at Earlham Cemetery to assist with enforcing a sensible speed restriction because of the impact they would have on hearses and the funeral cortege in general.

“So in the first instance we will look at signage to alert drivers to the speed restriction.

“If we find there is then a persistent problem with some drivers ignoring the speed restriction we have the option of looking at redesigning routes and access restrictions – in consultation with the crematorium – in order to alleviate the problem.

“To date we’ve had a handful of complaints from members of the public as well as other complaints from contract staff and council officers.”

Claire Stephenson, Nelson ward city council, said issues included people not using the correct path to cycle through the cemetery, although she questioned how the speed limit will be enforced.

But the Green Party group leader said it was inappropriate for any motor vehicles to use the cemetery as a cut-through.

Miss Stephenson, also a committee member of the Friends of Earlham Cemetery, said: “I think signs will be okay. At the moment there are signs saying people should not walk their dogs in the cemetery and people still do and that’s not enforced.

“I wonder how the council could enforce the speed limit? There’s also an argument for allowing dogs to go to funerals.

“I think when people are walking or cycling it’s a good way for people to go through the cemetery as you have extra eyes and ears for security. It’s a special place and they can also see the wildlife.

“Driving through the cemetery is totally unacceptable as a shortcut. It shows a marked lack of respect and it’s not the function of the cemetery.”

The 5mph limit has been added to the list of rules for Earlham and Rosary cemeteries, which is being re-freshed by the council.

They include making it clear dogs which assist disabled people are allowed in the cemetery, and regulating headstones and memorials.

As reported, graves have been inspected with signs put on those deemed to be dangerous. Officials hope these new rules will improve standards for constructing memorials and reduce the number of health and safety issues.

A new baby lawn section will also be created. Previously unused and unallocated space in Earlham will be made available for burials of babies aged one year old and under.

Of the existing area reserved for children of this age, council documents state: “Unfortunately the ‘baby’ sections have consistently been used for the burials of young children, including teenagers.

“The subsequent burial of young children in these sections has meant that coffin sizes, and therefore grave sizes, have varied.”

This prompted a review of the previous baby section, which will include future burials of any children up to the age of 16.

The Friends of Earlham Cemetery also held its first AGM last week, with the group keen to work with the council to protect, conserve and improve the site for wildlife and recreation.