1.1 The Closed Churchyard Order was passed on 10th November 1886 and 13th May 1887 which passed the responsibility of the maintenance of the Churchyard to the equivalent of Maldon District Council.The District Council transferred to the Parish Council the responsibility for the maintenance of the Churchyard in 1988.
1.2 A burial ground closed by Order in Council is subject to the Disused Burial Grounds Act 1884 which prohibits building on such grounds except for the purpose of enlarging the Church.
1.3 The National Association of Local Councils (NALC) have produced a Legal Topic Note (LTN 65) which explains the responsibilities of Parish Councils and Closed Churchyards. This reference document has been developed accordingly.
2. Maintenance of a Closed Churchyard
2.1 There is no statutory guidance on the appropriate standard to which a closed churchyard should be maintained.
2.2 Responsibility of maintenance includes the following:-
· Paths which cross the churchyard up to the standard of ‘decent order’
· Reasonable steps are taken to ensure the health and safety of employees working in churchyards such that tombstones and memorials do not present a hazard.
· Care and maintenance of trees located within the Churchyard including any necessary lopping, trimming, or felling trees which are dangerous or diseased.
· Repair of walls and fences. Often walls, railings and gates are listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as being of historic or architectural interest.Consequently, the cost of repairs and maintenance is likely to be high.
3. Monuments and Tombstones
3.1 The ordinary maintenance of monuments and tombstones is not the responsibility of the Parochial Church Council (PCC) or the Parish Council but of the owners, who are usually the heirs of the persons commemorated. Where the heirs or other owners cannot be traced, the PCC or Parish Council will have to take responsibility for dealing with dangerous monuments, since safety is part of keeping a closed churchyard in decent order.The removal of monuments, whether dangerous or not, requires the consent of the Church of England authorities (usually in the form of a faculty.)
4. Buildings and Improvements
4.1 The Parish Council is not responsible for the Church or any other building (such as a shed) in or adjacent the Churchyard.
4.2 The Parish Council has no obligation to undertake improvements to the Churchyard.