Published: 00:00, 21 March 2016
| Updated: 09:51, 21 March 2016
Damage caused by safety checks at a graveyard has been branded “worse than vandalism”.
Five headstones have been smashed, cracked or damaged by Thanet District Council workers at All Saints’ Church in Birchington.
Volunteer Ronald Taylor, 63, of Rosetti Road, Birchington, has been tidying up the graveyard for more than two years.
He said: “If I had done something like that I would be classified as a vandal. They have caused more damage in two weeks than we could ever have dreamed of doing.
“They are old graves and should be taken care of.”
The council said the work could be upsetting but that it was done within national guidelines and with the approval of church minister the Rev Don Witts.
Mr Taylor’s wife Janice, a retired deputy head teacher, said: “There is a lot of damage done to memorials by the memorial stability team.
“I understand that in a few cases memorials may need to be laid down after a stability test, but this team seem to be rocking memorials until they snap.
“I think someone at the council needs to reread the advice in regard to stability testing as this looks like vandalism rather than safety assurance.”
"This is at best heavy handed and at worst vandalism..." - Janice Taylor
The council said gravestones must be tested to ensure they do not pose a risk to the public.
Mrs Taylor said: “This is at best heavy handed and at worst vandalism.
“I would never condone leaving something unsafe in case it did cause injury but this was not the case.”
Thanet District Council spokesman Hannah Thorpe said: “The council takes responsibility to test the stability of the memorial in cases where they have started to erode to ensure they do not pose a risk of falling or injuring visiting members of the public.
“In council-owned cemeteries, where records of memorial ownership are held, the council is able to contact the last known owner of the memorial to advise of this action.
“In areas such as All Saints churchyard where these records are not held by the council a public notice is placed in the local paper and signs are placed in the affected area to warn that testing will be taking place.
“The council appreciates the sensitivity of this work with every effort made to advise those affected and has produced a leaflet to guide plot owners through what could be an upsetting time.
“The council’s team based at Thanet crematorium are also on hand for advice on the memorial stability programme.”