BCP Council says it is working hard to address problems at Christchurch Cemetery, which saw one burial having been accidentally placed within a plot that had been purchased by another family as a result of historic inaccurate records.
BCP Council took over the management of the Cemetery in Jumpers Road from Christchurch Borough Council in 2019 as part of Local Government Reorganisation, alongside burial and cremation services in Bournemouth and Poole.
In a statement BCP Council said: “We assumed responsibility from the previous authority for historical data and records. At the end of 2021 we were made aware of an historic records error that preceded BCP Council, and further checks raised concerns about other records dating back to at least the 1990s and possibly earlier.”
To address this issue and prevent further errors, the council immediately closed the site to new burials and began a thorough investigation of records and the history of burials in Christchurch, including the use of ground-penetrating radar.
The statement continued: “We’ve employed a records officer to collect all available information and help us establish confidence in the data we hold about Christchurch Cemetery plots. This will bring our records up to the same standards of other cemeteries within BCP Council’s area of responsibility.”
Further investigatory work has identified six other plots with potential record anomalies. No burials have been undertaken within these plots.
BCP Council says it is not responsible for historic records errors at Christchurch Cemetery but on behalf of the previous authority it acknowledges fully that these historic mistakes should never have been allowed to take place and apologises unreservedly to the families affected and for the undoubted upset and distress that this situation has caused.
The statement added: “As Christchurch Cemetery now falls under the jurisdiction of BCP Council, we have now taken full responsibility for this issue and we are working hard to resolve the situation respectfully and sensitively.
“We are working to do everything we can to resolve the situation in a sensitive manner and for the benefit of the affected families and residents of Christchurch.
“We are leading a comprehensive programme that will verify and correct historical records, introduce best practice at this cemetery and keep residents informed of progress.
“We have appointed additional colleagues to help us, but this is a lengthy and complicated process, and we would welcome members of the public coming forward with any records about plots they or family members have bought.”
Christchurch Cemetery remains open to visiting families with the only service currently suspended being the provision of new grave purchases for point-of-need burials. All other services remain unaffected.
The council says its priority is to now identify grave space within the cemetery to honour the wishes of those families that have already pre-purchased grave space that may be immediately affected by the records error.
As part of this it is working to verify that all vacant plots that have already been sold have been accurately allocated space in the cemetery.
The cemetery remains closed to new grave purchases for coffin burials until this extensive investigation is concluded.
There are no similar issues at any other cemeteries managed by BCP Council. Records inherited from Bournemouth Borough Council and the Borough of Poole are complete and maintained in compliance with the Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977.
A separate project is underway to identify suitable land within Christchurch to accommodate potential future cemetery provision.
Members of the public can email any records about plots they or their family have bought to Bereavementcare@bcpcouncil.gov.uk
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