CEMETERIES and burial grounds reopened after Rotherham Council reversed its closure decision following clarification from the Government.
Seven of the borough’s eight Dignity-managed graveyards welcomed visitors observing social distancing rules from today (Tuesday).
Communities secretary Robert Jenrick said on Saturday that councils should keep open or reopen cemeteries and graveyards.
“Not for people to congregate in; that must not happen,” he added. “But for people to make that private visit. To seek solace in a word at the grave of someone you have loved.
“Or to privately lay flowers. There have been times in my life when I have needed to do that. I’m certain there are people who need to do it today.”
John Healey MP (left), who campaigned on the issue, said: “Ministers have now cleared up the confusion and, as I asked, confirmed that cemeteries should stay open so people can visit the graves of loved ones they’ve lost.
“I’m pleased the secretary of state has responded and cleared the way for the council to reopen our Rotherham cemeteries.”
Mr Healey wrote to Mr Jenrick earlier this month, saying closures were adding to people’s grief at an already difficult time.
Guidance and regulations had been clear-cut on funerals and sites with crematoria — but there was nothing in the advice to say that all cemeteries should close, the Wentworth and Dearne MP said.
He added: “Graveside mourning is a private affair, not a social gathering. It is in the open air and low risk.”
Bramley Parish Council was among the first to act after Mr Jenrick’s speech — reopening its village cemetery from Sunday.
RMBC followed suit with an announcement on Monday evening that Maltby, Moorgate, Haugh Road, Greasbrough, Greasbrough Lane, Masbrough and Wath were to reopen. East Herringthorpe remains closed because it contains the crematorium.
An RMBC spokesman said: “Like many other local authorities, Rotherham Council recently made the decision to close council-owned cemeteries based on national guidance.
“Following queries from some bereaved families, and changing advice from the national body the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management, the council sought further clarification on the legislation and legal position, and the Government gave further advice over the weekend.
“As a result, the council believes there is sufficient evidence to support the reopening of seven of its eight cemeteries at this time.”
Polly Hamilton, the council’s assistant director of culture, sport and tourism, said: “We will continue to monitor the situation.”