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Anger over changes to graves in Harrow area of Carpenders Park Cemetery
Mourners are angry at the "disrespectful" way the graves of their loved ones have been treated at a cemetery.
People whose relatives are buried at Carpenders Park Cemetery, in Oxhey Lane, have launched a campaign against turning their part of the site into a lawn cemetery.
The cemetery is run by Brent Borough Council, and in 2007 Harrow Borough Council opened a section of the graveyard for Harrow residents.
But Harrow families recently found staff removing crosses, flowers and other memorabilia which had been allowed on the graves for years.
More than 1,100 people have signed a petition calling for the changes to be reversed.
Deborah Kelleher, 51, of St Edmunds Drive, Harrow, whose mother is buried at the site, said: "We were told a date the graves would be cleared but nothing was done until a month later.
"When I arrived there were staff just throwing people's crosses, flowers and pictures from around the graves into plastic bags.
"People were tuning up and when they saw what had happened they were in tears.
"The way this has been handled has been so disrespectful and very heavy handed. We know it's a lawn cemetery but for seven years the Harrow part hasn't been. It's been very hurtful.
"People want to personalise their loved one's graves to remember them and help them grieve. Now it's like a barren field and people walk over the graves not realising they are there."
Susan Johnston, 54, from Harrow, whose sister is buried at the cemetery said: “When my sister died six years ago we were not given a choice about where to bury her.
“Since then we have been allowed crosses to mark the graves but now they are being removed. This is deeply insensitive to bereaved families and disrespectful to the dead.
“Graves now have a numbered paving slab. This is reducing our loved ones to just a number.”
Tony Egan, 79, whose daughter is buried at the cemetery, said: "As Catholics we want the timber cross on the grave.
"Every time I go up there now I cry and cry. I just cannot believe this has been done."
Gerry Kiefer, head of sports and parks service at Brent Council, said: "As with all lawn cemeteries, Carpenders Park is a grassed cemetery where commemorative plaques are laid horizontally at ground level to maintain the look and feel of an open lawn.
"There are many grave owners who specifically wish their relatives and loved ones to be buried in a lawn cemetery.
"The common maintenance practice for such cemeteries is to lay graves to lawn after an initial period of at least 18 months.
"This means that people have a period where they can mark the graves of relatives and loved ones with commemorative items including religious insignia should they wish.
"After this period we notify all grave owners to remove items as a practical measure to enable us to lay the graves to lawn.
"All grave owners agree to this process when purchasing a burial plot at Carpenders Park and anyone who wishes to mark a grave with a headstone is offered a plot in an alternative cemetery."
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