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Sheppey families have had to put burial plans on hold at Halfway cemetery following Swale council decision due to high water levels

14 March 2014
by Lewis Dyson

Families’ funeral plans are on hold following an unprecedented decision to suspend burials at a graveyard.

As many as six interments at Sheppey Cemetery in Halfway have been affected after Swale council prevented the digging of any more graves until further notice.

Michael McCarthy and his sisters Janet Pagett, Joan Cox and Jean Searle do not know if the burial of their mother Gladys McCarthy, planned for March 25, will now go ahead.

The appalling sight that greeted the family of Ian White at his grave

The appalling sight that greeted the family of Ian White at his grave

She died on March 1 aged 87 and two days later the siblings had set a date for the ceremony with G Hogben & Sons Funeral Directors in Sheerness.

Mr McCarthy, of Medway Road, Sheerness, said: “We were all working towards the 25th.

“It’s hard enough without having this thrown on us. They could have honoured the burials which had been booked in and then closed it if they still need closing.”

The 51-year-old believes the council’s decision is a reaction to an incident where the ground over Ian White’s grave at the Halfway Road site was churned up by a digger, as reported in last week’s Times Guardian.

It happened after the vehicle was driven over the plot during creation of another grave.

He said: “I think this has happened and then they just panicked, but they haven’t given a thought for the families that have been affected.

“Every family needs closure, don’t they.”

Mr McCarthy said if his mother’s burial cannot go ahead on the planned date, they may have to opt for a cremation instead.

Swale council’s cabinet member for environment and rural affairs, David Simmons, said: “Our aim, at all times, is to keep the service going. Suspending burials is a last case scenario that we have tried to avoid.

“Unfortunately water tables at the Halfway cemetery are now too high to be able to safely continue with burials. It is therefore with great regret that we have to suspend burials at this site until the water levels reduce. The safety of mourners, and those carrying out work in the grounds, must remain a priority.

“We will continue to monitor ground conditions and as soon as it is practicably possible, we will make the cemetery available for burials. We are sorry for any distress this may cause.”

A spokesman for Swale council said the damage to Mr White’s grave had no bearing on the decision to suspend burials as the ground condition had been monitored prior to that for some time.

They added that once the ground has improved from the wet weather, they will work with the family on a long-term solution.

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