Bereaved families are denied being able to leave memorial items at graves in Kent church

Video report by ITV News Meridian's Tony Green

A call for change at a Kent parish church from bereaved families whose memorials to their children were taken away, has ended in failure. 

Silk flowers, toys, and candles are among the items removed from graves at St Peter's in Bredhurst because they do not meet regulations.

Campaigners say they want the church to relax the rules. Cheryl Tutt said: "We want the church to show empathy. The rules are the same in every graveyard, but here they decide to just take everything and not allow anything."

Mementos left by graves at St Peter's in Bredhurst. Credit: ITV News Meridian

A consultation was launched to ask what people wanted to be left on the graves and for how long. However despite some being opposed to the regulations, more than 60% of people said they were happy with the current rules.

With items left on loved ones' graves, 23% of respondents said they would like items left on the grave for a week to ten days.

Two hundred and fifty people, with a family member buried at the churchyard, were consulted; a total of 91 responded.

The Ven Andy Wooding Jones, the Archdeacon of Rochester, said: "The churchyard regulations make clear what can and can't be on all graves. There comes a point that those who look after the churchyard want to make sure that what's on the graves is what's on there appropriately."

Watch: The Ven Andy Wooding Jones, and campaigner Cheryl Tutt

When asked what changes people would like to see, one person commented: "Would like to see the removal of CCTV watching us whilst at our graves. Would like to stop being watched whilst at the cemetery by staff. And would like the removal of fresh flowers to be stopped immediately after being laid, have been seen in the newly built compost bins.”

Another said: "I believe allowances should be made for parents that have lost children and need mementos to help with their grieving process and especially for significant anniversaries.”

The views were mixed, with another reading: “None. I am happy the way things are."A parochial church council spokesman: "While this consultation has been about the very practical maintenance, understanding, and future of the Churchyard, we are fully aware of the pain and suffering that bereavement brings to people."We understand that for some, taking part in this process has been a very difficult and emotional experience, triggering painful memories and feelings."They added: "We also know that the journey to this point has not always been easy.  We deeply regret this and continue to hold all those affected by this matter in our prayers."

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