A PROPOSAL for Ross-on-Wye Town Council to take on the maintenance of St Mary’s Churchyard was unanimously rejected by members at Monday’s meeting.

The Parochial Church Council has decided that the open churchyard should now be closed as the burial ground is full and has indicated to the Ministry of Justice of its intention of closing it because the there is no usable space for new graves.

The Parochial Church Council has offered Ross Town Council the opportunity to take over the area beyond the track running from the main churchyard gate, from Old Maids Walk / Church Street, an area approximately the size of six full-sized football pitches.

Councillor Louis Stark said: “This council is not in the habit of writing open cheques for any proposition that comes our way. But as we don’t know what the state the churchyard is currently in, and we don’t have a realistic costs of how much it cost to maintain it as its considerably bigger than the area we currently look after, it will be problematic financially.”

Cllr Milly Boylan said: “To assess this properly we would need a detailed survey to be undertaken.” Cllr Linden Delves asked if it was possible for any costings to be provided. Members were told that a conservative estimate was around £60,000 annually for basic maintenance but with one-off costs included this rose to £210,538.

Cllr Ed O’Driscoll explained that it was his understanding that the council does not have to accept the proposal as it would therefore by default be taken over by Herefordshire Council to carry out the maintenance.”

Cllr Julian Utting added: “To undertake a scheme like this would be costly and there would be hidden expenses as the churchyard is not in a good state.”

However, Cllr Chris Bartrum pointed out that if the town council rejected the proposal and the maintenance defaulted to Herefordshire Council, then the grass would only be cut four times a year.

“People who have loved ones buried in the churchyard will ultimately see a deterioration in the area because it will not be maintained to the level it is now.

“It will be an expensive option, but it’s a trade-off between looking after our town and spending a lot of money.”