'Heartless' memorial plaque removals planned in Selsey

East Beach, Selsey. Picture by Kate Shemilt. ks170054-1
East Beach, Selsey. Picture by Kate Shemilt. ks170054-1

Dedications to loved ones on benches in Selsey could be removed unless families pay £600 to renew their 'ten year lease'.

Selsey Town Council has said the memorial benches on East Beach are town council property and issued under a ten year agreement.

A spokesman said: "Only we have permission to put [the benches] there.

"People who have lost loved ones are able to apply to have a dedication on a bench in return for a donation of £600 for a ten year period."

The council was also asked about letters reportedly sent to residents informing them that the benches and plaques they had paid hundreds of pounds for more than a decade ago could now be sold on to other families.

A comment on our Facebook page by The Selsey Grapevine said that the introduction of a 'ten year lease' for a memorial plaque is a recent ruling, and 'completely different' from the agreement the historical plaques were purchased under.

The group added: "The decision to resubmit invoices to the families who have already purchased theirs prior to March 2018, is not lawful or moral, and is quite frankly heartless.

"You cannot complete a transaction and then move the goalposts to suit, it's like you doing your Tesco shop and them asking for the money again three weeks later."

Louise Ann Brand agreed. She said that the decision was 'completely heartless and morally wrong'.

Heather Simpson added that it is 'very unfair', whilst Sharron Stevenson said it was 'disgusting'.

However, the town council said that the ten year lease is there in the interests of fairness, as there is a 'waiting list of 39 families wishing to apply'.

The spokesman added: "There are more requests than sites available.

"In order to manage the waiting list and try to ensure that everyone should get the opportunity to hold a dedication in this special location, the council created its Memorial Bench Policy in 2009 which has been periodically reviewed and revised."

The council said it has recently carried out an 'audit of the benches and have contacted the people where dedication periods have expired'.

"Unfortunately, in some cases the contact details we hold are no longer accurate and so posters are displayed on the benches for three months appealing for information," the spokesman continued.

"As Selsey is a close-knit community we find this yields positive results. Where dedications are not renewed the sites are re-offered; the existing plaques are removed and kept in the office for collection. As part of this process, we replace any benches beyond repair with recycled plastic benches which stand up well to the exposed location."

The council acknowledged that some dedications 'have been in situ for some time' and in the past the system of dedications was 'managed informally'.

It added: "The Memorial Policy ensures that site allocation is managed fairly however we are very aware of the sensitivity of dedications and work sympathetically in carrying this out."

What do you think about the plans? Are you one of the affected residents? Let us know at news@chiobserver.co.uk or comment on our Facebook page.