Up to 20 graves feared to have been damaged by fallen tree at Swaffham cemetery

Fallen tree crushes 20 graves at Swaffham cemetery,  Kevan Hill from Swaffham Town Council  grounds and maintenance clearing the tree ANL-151124-170827009
Fallen tree crushes 20 graves at Swaffham cemetery, Kevan Hill from Swaffham Town Council grounds and maintenance clearing the tree ANL-151124-170827009
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As many as 20 graves in Swaffham’s cemetery are feared to have been damaged by a fallen tree which was brought down by high winds.

Officials hope contractors will have cleared most of the debris of the tree from the site by the end of the week, before the full extent of the damage can be assessed.

But town council clerk Richard Bishop said today: “We want to get things back to normal as soon as we can.”

The tree, which came down at the weekend, is believed to have fallen on a part of the cemetery which has a mixture of new and older graves.

Mr Bishop said the tree had stood on the grounds of an adjoining property.

He added: “It’s hard to assess how many graves are damaged, but it could be 15 to 20.

“We’re hoping that, if the trunk is taken away by the end of this week, we can start making contact with families, show them what damage there is and see where we go from there.”

Although town council staff have been working to clear some of the branches from the site, the main trunk will have to be removed by specialist contractors.

But, although the town council is responsible for maintaining the cemetery, it is unclear exactly who will end up paying the final repair bill.

Mr Bishop said: “Some graves have exclusive rights, which means the responsibility lies with the family, but there is a grey area in the law and an expectation that the council will look after the graves.”

He said the authority was already in contact with its insurers about the incident.

Concerns have been raised about the safety of trees around the cemetery in recent months.

In August, the town council agreed to provide half of the estimated £3,000 costs of removing three diseased trees on the boundary of the cemetery, even though officials maintained they were not on their land.

Resident Keith Creed had warned that the trees were likely to become unstable if action was not taken. Those trees had been cut down prior to the weekend’s incident.