BNT raises concerns over church graveyard plans
The Bermuda National Trust has raised concerns about potential disturbance of graves at a Southampton church after work was carried out in the graveyard without planning permission.
Earlier this summer, St Anne’s Church sought retroactive planning approval for the addition of two grave sites and refurbishment of two existing grave sites in the church’s graveyard.
The project also included a new 8ft retaining wall, a new concrete paved walkway with a 4ft concrete block wall and the relocation of an 8ft-high concrete pillar to the walkway.
In a letter sent to the Department of Planning, churchwardens for St Anne’s apologised for the retroactive application.
“It was our understanding that a permit to erect the two retaining walls on the edge of the newly created ramp was not required since the walls are under 4ft,” the churchwardens said.
“The purpose of the ramp was to allow for easier access to the upper level of the gravesite for burials.
“It is difficult to secure the excavating machine for this work and we felt that doing both projects – ramp and new build graves – would be efficient use of and be of least disturbance to the graveyard and all parties concerned.
“We wish to apologise for any inconvenience our actions may have caused and sincerely thank the planning department for their guidance and direction with respect to this matter.”
The Bermuda National Trust, however, objected to the retroactive plans as the work had been done on a Grade 1 listed building and raised concerns about potential impacts on human remains.
Charlotte Andrews, head of cultural heritage for the BNT, said: “We are highly concerned about the damage done to the cemetery boundary and burials, including the possible disinterment or other disturbance of human remains, as well as negative impacts to the church and cemetery setting due to the works listed above and carried out without planning permission.”
Dr Andrews added that there was no plan attached to the application on how the impacted areas of the site would be “appropriately and ethically” treated moving forward.
“In developing this plan, we recommend referencing any guidelines on human remains developed by the Bermuda Department of Planning,” Dr Andrews said.
“We also recommend a close review of the Bermuda Ombudsman's 2014 investigation and report A Grave Error, particularly in terms of the rights of descendants and the appropriate commemoration, memorialisation or restoration of burial sites.”
The church has been asked for comment.