Closing cemetery 'is not the answer'
A LOCAL councillor is urging a rethink on the closure of graveyards in Great Yarmouth following a recent spate of mindless vandalism. Yobs running riot through cemeteries off Kitchener Road and St Nicholas Churchyard have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to gravestones and memorials, revealed in the Mercury last week.
A LOCAL councillor is urging a rethink on the closure of graveyards in Great Yarmouth following a recent spate of mindless vandalism.
Yobs running riot through cemeteries off Kitchener Road and St Nicholas Churchyard have caused thousands of pounds worth of damage to gravestones and memorials, revealed in the Mercury last week.
In a bid to combat the sick behaviour the borough council, supported by the police, are closing gates overnight to all cemeteries from 7pm, starting tonight
However, the move has been criticised by Labour group leader Mick Castle who reckons locking the gates will not stop yobs getting inside the cemeteries and causing reckless damage.
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He said: “It's not just a graveyard, it's a right of way, and I urge them to rethink this. This sort of behaviour is the reason we have police community support officers who can create a public presence.
“When an incident happens in St George's Park you expect officers to go down there and nip the behaviour in the bud not for them to close the park.”
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Mr Castle said he was “sad” to see the damage but said it shouldn't mean hundreds of people lose the use of a pathway in the evenings.
He added he has witnessed “alchos” drinking in the park during the day and said locking gates wouldn't deter yobs.
“The people who do this will not be put off by gates being locked, they will climb over walls,” he said. “Rather than taking a facility away let's find out when this damage is happening, increase patrols and catch the people doing this.”
More than 50 memorials, some of which are more than 100 years old, have been damaged to the value of roughly £100,000. Gates to cemeteries off Kitchener Road have always been closed at 7pm in the summer time but now following the recent damage spree the council is going to close gates leading to St Nicholas Churchyard from Sainsbury's, Factory Road and Town Wall Road.
And the council is also working closely with the church and police to get the main gates to St Nicholas Church closed in the evenings.
Mr Castle, of Town Wall Road, was also critical about the “lack” of public consultation regarding the closure of the gates. He said: “The area where I live has not received any letters saying this is going to happen. If the council wanted to do something like this they should at least have a letter through their door.”
The borough council's bereavement services manager, Linda Bigg, said she apologised to Mr Castle for “not consulting him” but stressed she though local people would have known because the local Safer Neighbourhood Team was heavily involved in the situation.
She said: “The pathway is not a public right of way - we checked that with Norfolk County Council. If the gates are closed and the police catch people inside they can be prosecuted for trespassing. If the gates are left open we can't do that.”
Mrs Bigg revealed the council is looking into the costing of increasing the wall height on Kitchener Road which currently stands at three-and-a-half feet high. She is said it wasn't just the issue of graves being targeted by vandals but also people walking dogs and cycling in the Old and New Cemeteries, which is prohibited.
“We want to send a warning to people that if they are going to cause damage in the cemetery we will prosecute them,” she added.