The council has revised its policy on grave decorations in a section of a Shoreham cemetery, following a petition which amassed more than 700 signatures.
It was started by Fiona Presley, a mother left devastated by a council letter received in June asking her to clear the lights, flowers and momentos from her disabled daughter’s grave.
Kelly Colwell, who was brain damaged by epilepsy and died aged 26, is buried in Section B of Mill Lane Cemetery – a designated lawn area where only headstones were permitted, according to the council.
But last week, after Fiona, of Parklands, Shoreham, delivered the petition to a council officer, she received a call to say the grave could remain as it was.
The 47-year-old mother of four, who has just finished treatment for breast cancer, said she was ‘really, really relieved’.
“There was lots of support from other people in the same position,” she said.
The news came just in time for the one year anniversary of Kelly’s death, which the whole family marked at 5pm yesterday (Tuesday, July 4) by visiting her grave and releasing dozens of balloons.
The news was also welcomed by Glenis Miller, a grandmother who was refused her ‘heart’s desire’ to bury her husband Andrew with a headstone and kerb set in Section B of the cemetery.
Like Fiona, she said she had not been aware of the restrictions when Andrew was buried and called it ‘crazy red tape’.
After a year of waiting, she said it gave her ‘great joy’ to finally be given permission for the memorial.
“At last we and other families can have the memorials we desire for our loved ones and appreciate that special, personal place of peace and beauty to reflect and be thankful for their lives,” said the mother of four, of the Driveway, Shoreham.
She added: “Hopefully lessons will be learnt from all of this and in future the community treated with more compassion.”
A spokesperson from Adur District Council said Section B had been a lawn area for 16 years and that funeral directors were instructed by the council to make families aware of this fact before they choose a plot.
But the spokesperson said: “In the light of the number of families affected by the policy the council has decided that this section will no longer be designated as a lawn cemetery, although newly opened sections of the cemetery may still be categorised this way in future.
“It was not our intention to cause undue distress to any family and we apologise unreservedly for this.”
The council will shortly issue new guidelines regarding what can be allowed as memorials and remembrance items on graves, ‘which will be in keeping with those in use in other parts of the cemetery’. said the spokesperson.
“Clearly the council has a duty to balance the needs and wishes of all relatives with loved ones at the cemetery,” the spokesperson said.
All families affected by the policy are being contacted by officers from the bereavement services team within the council, added the spokesperson.