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Floral tributes removed from seaside memorial benches over virus concerns

PUBLISHED: 06:30 06 August 2020 | UPDATED: 08:29 06 August 2020

Ray Clarke and his dog Darcy at the memorial bench to four family members at Gorleston. Mr Clarke is calling for a compromise over a council ban on floral tributes Picture: supplied by Ray Clarke

Ray Clarke and his dog Darcy at the memorial bench to four family members at Gorleston. Mr Clarke is calling for a compromise over a council ban on floral tributes Picture: supplied by Ray Clarke

Archant

A man has pledged to challenge the council after it stripped a string of memorial benches of floral tributes amid the pandemic.

The posy that was removed from a family memorial bench in Gorleston. Great Yarmouth Borough Council says floral tributes hinder social distancing Picture: Ray ClarkeThe posy that was removed from a family memorial bench in Gorleston. Great Yarmouth Borough Council says floral tributes hinder social distancing Picture: Ray Clarke

Ray Clarke, 60, tagged Great Yarmouth Borough Council’s actions as “disgraceful” saying it was upsetting for families, some of whom visited the seafront at Gorleston every day to honour their loved ones.

The former offshore worker discovered the small posy he had left in memory of family members was gone while on a walk, along with others.

The scenic clifftop and lower prom are lined with numerous benches many of which have dedicated family plaques and flower-filled vases attached.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council (GYBC) said it refrained from moving items where possible, but said an increase had resulted in more complaints and difficulties in social distancing.

Lyn Clarke at the family memorial bench in Gorleston. Laying flowers is a way of honouring your loved ones in a place that was special to them, her husband Ray Clarke says. Picture: Ray ClarkeLyn Clarke at the family memorial bench in Gorleston. Laying flowers is a way of honouring your loved ones in a place that was special to them, her husband Ray Clarke says. Picture: Ray Clarke

And while Mr Clarke agreed some people had gone “over the top” making it hard to sit at a social distance he asked why there was no consultation or an effort to find a softer solution.

He said: “It is a compromise I am after.

“It is disrespectful. I was quite upset about it and feel very strongly about it.

“These vases cost next to nothing and if they said would fix one to the back of the bench, which some people already do, and charge a small fee that would be fine.

“I fully understand where they are coming from, but it needs to be done properly.”

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Mr Clarke has a family plaque on a bench near the ravine which remembers his mother, father, brother, and step-father.

He added his father suffered a heart attack and died on one of the benches when he was just 12, adding to the poignancy.

Mr Clarke has now set up a Facebook group called ‘GYBC give us back our flowers on benches on Gorleston seafront’, to harness support and raise awareness.

In a statement, Great Yarmouth Borough Council said “We try to be understanding of any items left on benches and do our best to refrain from removing them where possible.

“However, recently the items have increased significantly resulting in complaints regarding access to the benches.

“The coronavirus situation only escalated this situation and complaints have increased, as items were limiting opportunity for the benches to be cleaned and hindering peoples attempts at social distancing.

“Therefore we had to make the decision to clear benches of all additional items, as per the guidance given when a plaque is purchased.”

“Anything that has been removed has been left on the grass embankments next to the bench it was removed from.”

Rules around plaques do state that flowers and vases are not allowed, but there has been little or no enforcement for many years.

A memorial plaque costs £230 plus VAT for a 10-year dedication, with the only sea-facing availability being on the lower prom.


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