A PROPOSAL to flatten unsafe gravestones in Bellingham cemetery rather than repairing them has been rejected by Bellingham Parish Council.

A recent survey found that a total of 42 memorials in the Croft cemetery were in a potentially dangerous condition.

Councillors heard that of the unsafe stones, 28 could be repaired by Northumberland County Council at a cost of £800, but the other 14 would require the services of a specialist monumental mason, at a total cost of £2,250.

The suggestion that the faulty stones should be laid flat was not accepted, and it was agreed that the repairs be carried out as a matter of urgency.

The parish council agreed to spend money on repairs and not lay the stones flat.

The parish council is responsible for the upkeep of the closed churchyard at St Cuthbert’s Church, where another survey will be required on graves dating back several centuries, and is expected to take place next year.

Cemetery fees were substantially increased at the beginning of the year after remaining unchanged for many years, but the extra cash raised was being ring-fenced specifically to maintain and improve the cemetery.

Improvements have already been carried out to paths and fencing at the cemetery, and quotes are being sought to bring the cemetery chapel back into use.

A Northumberland County Council spokesperson: “While this cemetery is managed by the parish council, we provided professional advice to them on a number of options around the unsafe gravestones.

“The final decisions all rest with the parish council and we have no concerns with their planned course of action.”