Cemetery Memorials and Memorial Safety Inspections

The council wishes to ensure that all grave memorials within the cemetery are of an approved type and are erected in a safe and satisfactory manner by authorised and experienced companies. Our regulations outline the basic points of reference in relation to the provision and erection of all grave headstone memorials permitted within the council's cemeteries. It should be noted that memorials remain in the ownership of the applicant and hence also the responsibility for all its future maintenance.

From Spring 2017, as part of a rolling five year Health and Safety Memorial Safety Inspection Programme, Ashford Borough Council is carrying out safety inspections of headstones and kerb sets in all of its four open cemeteries and the 13 closed churchyards, which it maintains.

We know how important memorials are as a lasting symbol of remembrance.

Applying for and erecting a memorial

Ashford Borough Council does not provide headstones in cemeteries. For this service you need a stonemason. Please view a list of stonemasons.

A permit is required before any memorial can be erected on a grave. When you order a memorial through a stonemason they will usually apply for a permit on your behalf. Please see our list of application forms for further guidance.

Frequently asked questions

How do I arrange to have a memorial erected on a grave?

We will give you advice on the type of memorial permitted on the grave in question. Memorials will only be permitted to be erected by stonemasons, who have submitted appropriate risk assessments and safe working procedures for the erection of memorials, and who also possess valid public liability and employer’s insurance cover.

Once we receive a request for a permit to erect a memorial, we will check our records to ensure that the applicant is the purchaser. We will also check that the type of memorial requested is allowed on the plot in question. If this is in order we will then give the stonemason authority to proceed. If the memorial cannot be erected immediately we will put a date on the permit indicating when this can take place.

What if the person applying for the permit for a headstone is not the purchaser of the grave?

The council will only grant permission for the erection of a headstone to the owner of the grave. If you are not the purchaser, you will need to apply for a transfer of the deeds.

You can email the cemeteries officer to discuss transfer of the plot's deeds, or call them on 01233 330472.

Where can I find an application form to erect a memorial?

Visit our fees and regulations page to obtain a memorial permit application form.

Can I erect a memorial on my grave immediately?

No. For full graves a minimum of six months from the date of burial will be required as the ground requires time to settle. For cremated remains, it can be less.

How large can the memorial be?

You will need to check the council's Grave Regulations to find out. Here you will also be able to see information relating to cultivation, wooden memorials, monumental masonry, fencing and edging, glass containers, brick/stones, grave settlement, turfing/seeding of grave area, and information relating to neglected graves.

How much will it cost to add a memorial/further inscription to existing memorial?

See our fees, regulations and application forms page for details of costs.

Other than a masonry headstone, what other kind of memorial is acceptable?

You may purchase a wooden cross and plaque at a cost from the council. Please see our fees and regulations for more information.

All new graves are gifted this as standard. However, should you wish to purchase one for an older grave or a re-open of a grave, this is possible by contacting the cemeteries officer or calling 01233 330472.

Should you have any further questions which are not listed above please let us know.

Memorial safety inspections


Our cemeteries date back as far as 1859, consequently some of the memorial stones within them are extremely old. Whilst the age of a stone does not guarantee its stability or instability local authorities are expected to have a suitable memorial inspection programme in place.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires all burial authorities to ensure that memorials are safe so that the potential for injury to those visiting and working in the cemetery is reduced. Whilst reports of serious incidents involving unsafe memorials are relatively rare nationwide and the risk of injury considered low, there have been fatalities.

Inspection process

From Spring 2017, as part of a rolling five year Health and Safety memorial inspection programme, Ashford Borough Council is carrying out safety inspections of headstones and curb sets in all of its four open cemeteries and the 13 closed churchyards which it maintains.

Cemeteries maintained by Ashford Borough Council
Open cemeteries
Canterbury Road Cemetery, Ashford TN24 8LB
Willesborough Cemetery, Church Road, Willesborough TN24 0JG
Tenterden Cemetery, Cranbrook Road, Tenterden TN30 6UG
Bybrook Cemetery, Cemetery Lane, Ashford TN24 9JX


Churchyards maintained by Ashford Borough Council
Closed churchyards
Grave Yard, Station Road, Tenterden
 St Mary’s Church, Ashford Town Centre
 St Mary’s Church, Kennington
 St Mary’s Church, Stone
 St Mary’s Church, Willesborough
 St Mildred’s Church, Tenterden
 St Michael and All Angels Church
 St Michaels, Tenterden
 St Peter and Paul Church, Appledore
 St Peter’s Church, Newenden
St. Peter’s Church, Molash
St. Mary’s Church, High Halden
Old burial ground, Vicarage Field, Ashford
Remains of St Mary’s Church, Little Chart

Re-Inspections carried out every 12 months after initial inspection

We shall be commencing our second year of memorial safety inspections from the 1st October 2018. 

We will be only inspecting memorials classified as a category 1 or category 2 at this time.

Category 1 immediate action will be taken to make the memorial safe. This may result in the memorial being carefully laid flat/rested to alleviate any risk of injury. Where a memorial is a listed item then the memorial may be temporarily supported or the memorial may have a temporary barrier.

Category 2 the memorial is not an immediate danger but is not fully stable and will, therefore, need to be monitored every 12 months to assess any further deterioration. Where a memorial that was previously a Category 2 is inspected and re categorised as a Category 1 the action for a Category 1 will be undertaken.

If at the time of the first inspection the memorial was identified as a category 1 the owner had up to one year to make the memorial safe. If we identify that the memorial is in the same condition or the condition has deteriorated during our next inspection, we shall take immediate action to rectify the situation - this may result in the memorial being placed horizontally. 

If at the time of the first inspection the memorial was identified as a category 2 the memorial was not in immediate danger but was not fully stable and would be monitored every 12 months to access further deterioration. If a memorial has deteriorated and moves from a category 2 to a category 1 then the action undertaken is as detailed above for the new categorisation.

You can download our updated frequently asked questions below for more information alternatively you can contact the cemeteries officer on 01233 3300896 or email us.

[1] Category 1 is where immediate action is required to make the memorial safe.
[2] Category 2 is where the memorial is not an immediate danger but is not fully stable and will, therefore, need to be monitored every 12 months to assess any further deterioration.

Communication prior to inspections

Prior to the inspections beginning, the council will make every effort to ensure the public are aware.

We will attempt to contact the last known grave owner in writing in accordance with our registers, but are only able to do so where the memorial is less than 30 years old. We will also include a copy of our Memorial inspections FAQs [pdf] 407KB.

*Please note that if any letters are returned to our offices marked as “not known at this address” we will cease communication to that address.

A press release will be issued and notices will be placed in the notice boards in each cemetery.

After the inspection takes place

The council will notify the last known grave owner (same rules as above) of the inspection findings for their memorial and will provide information on what to do next.

If your memorial is unsafe

If your memorial poses an immediate danger it may be temporarily laid down, cordoned off or supported with a small stake where possible. It should be noted that under the provisions of the Local Authorities Cemeteries Order 1977 (LACO) Article 3 empowers the council to make safe dangerous memorials.

Where a stake has been used as a temporary measure, this will be guaranteed for a maximum of 12 months. The grave owner will need to arrange the necessary remedial work with an approved memorial mason within this period; these memorial masons should undertake the repair up to a minimum standard as recommended by NAMM or equivalent. The council would ask that we are notified when such works have been completed.

Making your memorial safe

Grave owners have a responsibility to make sure their memorial remains in good repair. Therefore if you are notified that your memorial needs attention, you should contact an approved stonemason for which the mason may charge a fee.

Do not attempt to repair or remove a memorial yourself.

If you take no action the Authority may look to reduce any risk by the most cost effective means available to us.

How you can help

You can help us by:

  • Keeping your contact details up to date
  • Being aware that cemeteries are potentially dangerous places
  • Staying on the footpaths and avoid touching any memorials
  • Supervising children at all times

Further help

If you have any concerns, questions or require further information about the testing please contact the cemeteries office. You can contact the office by email or telephone on 01233 330896.