Church 'content' for parking on gravestones to continue

Monday, September 27 2010

Church leaders at a place of worship in Birmingham say they are ‘content’ to allow parking to continue on top of historic gravestones, much to the dismay of West Midlands MEP Mike Nattrass.

The Reverend Mary Gilbert, who is the Vicar at St Paul’s Church, has told Stephen Hughes, Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council, she is content for Georgian and Victorian gravestones to continue to be used as a surface for car parking spaces despite UKIP MEP Mike Nattrass calling for the cracking stones to be relocated.

Mr Nattrass wrote to Birmingham City Council earlier this year concerning the disrespectful use of memorials as paving for parking at St Paul’s churchyard in the Jewellery Quarter.

But, Mr Hughes has confirmed the council has no identifiable budget to fund a project, which officers at the local authority estimate would cost 20,000, to resurface the parking area and end the parking on gravestones.

In his letter, Mr Hughes stated: “Officers have recently spoken to the Vicar at St Paul’s who is content to see the existing area used for parking with the likelihood that, if the gravestones were removed, they would have to be broken up as they are already damaged.

“The cost of removing them and resurfacing the area concerned is likely to be circa 20,000 and this is not felt to represent good value for money from the public purse particularly given these austere times. In any event no identifiable budget is currently available.

“However, if funds could be found to progress matters, this would initially be a matter for the Church. As a closed churchyard, a Bishop’s Faculty application would need to be submitted to the Diocesan office to approve such works.”

But, Mr Nattrass this week said he is deeply saddened by the news and that the parking on the ancient gravestones will continue.

Mr Nattrass said: “It is deeply disrespectful to park on these memorials and I strongly believe the wishes of those individuals buried in the churchyard, have been disregarded.

“When these gravestones were relocated to their present site I believe there was never an intention for them to be used as a surface for parking.

“These gravestones should either be cordoned off or be relocated to a fitting grassed area within the churchyard. Surely these stones should be preserved for future generations. This is an embarrassing situation that should never have arisen,” he added.