Grave deadline for loving Joe

CONCERN ... Joe Grant at the grave of his late wife Blanche.
CONCERN ... Joe Grant at the grave of his late wife Blanche.

A WIDOWER has been given a two-month deadline to remove a decorative surround on his beloved wife’s grave.

Joe Grant, 85, laid his 80-year-old wife, Blanche, to rest at Harton Cemetery in South Shields in June 2012.

Mr Grant, of Gosforth Avenue, South Shields, had spent more than a decade caring for his dementia-stricken wife and, as a tribute, he purchased a 5ft-long ornamental surround to be placed around her graveside.

But South Tyneside Council is demanding the size of the surround be reduced – because there is a 3ft limit on the length of ‘ornamental gardens’ in that part of the cemetery.

Mr Grant has fought the ruling for almost two years.

Now he has received a letter saying he has two months to reduce its size – or the authority will step in to carry out the work.

It’s a demand which he says is “so upsetting”.

He added: “I think it is just a threat and I really don’t like it. When I put the surround on, I was never notified by anyone about these rules. Why should I be asked to do this now?

“It seems as if there is one rule for one and another one for me. In other parts of the cemetery there are surrounds of five feet and more. They are not being asked to pull them up.

“I have no intention of reducing the size. It was my tribute to Blanche and I want it to stay that way.”

A spokeswoman for South Tyneside Council said: “We appreciate this is a sensitive issue and very much sympathise with Mr Grant.

“But the council has a responsibility to ensure that the cemetery’s regulations are followed to ensure that the area can be properly maintained and accessible to everyone.

“These rules are provided to everyone when a grave is purchased.

“Graves in the lawned section can have small ornamental gardens up to a maximum of 3ft in length, but in this case the decorations are 5ft in length.

“We have discussed this with Mr Grant and continue to do everything we can to help him to bring the area in line with the regulations.”

Rules and regulations were brought into force in the cemetery in 1979. The limitation on the decorative surround was introduced around six or seven years ago.

Prior to this, people were not allowed to have any decorative features on the grave, only the on memorial stone.

It was introduced to enable people to have space to place ornaments and decorative features.

Twitter: @shieldsgazpaul