Warning signs stuck to graves in Earlham Cemetery as 40,000 memorials are set to be inspected by council officers

Inspectors are sticking warning notices on memorials as the city's 40,000 gravestones are tested amid health and safety fears.

The signs are being put on memorials which are deemed dangerous by the city council, while unsafe graves are being cordoned off or laid flat on the ground.

A note from Norwich City Council at Earlham Cemetery said 'bereavement services staff' had begun inspecting the graves to check their stability.

It said: 'A notice may be attached to the memorial and emergency measures may be taken to temporarily secure a memorial if there is an immediate health and safety risk.'

The council, which has a legal responsibility to make sure the burial grounds are safe, said it had come up with the 'memorial testing programme' to meet its legal obligations.

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Graves with a problem will be inspected by rocking them by hand, before using a 'topple-test' where a force of 25kg would be put against the stone.

Owners of dangerous graves are being written to, asking them to find a mason to repair the memorial.

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The council said it would inspect the unsafe memorials again in a year to make sure repairs had been complete.

At Earlham Cemetery, 15 of 700 memorials inspected were deemed unsafe and where owners could not be found, warning notices were put up on eight graves.

Of the 15, two were laid down, while 13 stones were secured with supports.

Councillor Lucy Galvin, whose ward covers Earlham Cemetery, said: 'I'm pressing the council to take a very sensitive line.

'It is most important to respect the feelings of the relatives.

'It is important that graves are safe and well maintained, but I would urge them to make sure they treat the graves with the utmost respect.

'I would question whether sticking notices on graves is respectful or effective.'

Norwich City Council will inspect city's 40,000 memorials over the next three years.

Earlham Cemetery is the first site to be inspected while the city's other open cemetery, Rosary Road, is also part of the programme.

Within the city's boundary, gravestones at 30 closed cemeteries and churchyards will also be inspected.

In April, the council advertised for two vacancies - paid up to �25,000 a year - to inspect graves.

•Do you have a story about Earlham for the Evening News? Contact reporter Tom Bristow on 01603772313 or email tom.bristow@archant.co.uk

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