Five-year estimate to reinstate toppled Borders headstones

Gravestone toppling has been controversial since being introduced in 2018.
A pilot scheme looked at the time and cost implications of the council reinstating headstones it has laid flat

A council has estimated it would take a five-year programme for it to reinstate thousands of headstones being laid flat for safety reasons.

The local authority in the Scottish Borders is being advised to work with private contractors instead.

It follows a pilot project at Lennel Cemetery in Coldstream to assess costs and resource implications.

A report said that for the council to tackle the issue in-house would also cost nearly £150,000.

The issue of laying flat headstones has been a contentious one in the region for some time.

Dismantled headstones.
An in-house restoration scheme would take the council years it has been estimated

Earlier this year Scottish Borders Council (SBC) promised to improve warnings of headstone testing following a review.

Safety checks were halted last year after dozens of stones had been toppled without relatives' knowledge.

Headstone testing was introduced across Scotland following the death of eight-year-old Ciaran Williamson at Craigton Cemetery in 2015.

Now a report to councillors has outlined the scale of the issue facing the local authority.

By the time its inspection programme is completed it is estimated more than 3,000 of the 46,435 headstones inspected will have to be laid flat.

Following the pilot reinstatement project the council has been able to calculate the staff time needed to carry out restoration work across the region.

Many families have complained about stones being dismantled or laid flat.
The authority is being recommended to work with contractors to help memorial owners reinstate the headstones

It has estimated it could be delivered over a five-year programme.

However, a council report said the the majority of local authorities did not routinely reinstate headstones and is recommending a partnership with local contractors instead.

It would mean the local authority would direct memorial owners to businesses which could carry out the work.

The council said it would "explore" the possibility of financial support for anyone who could not afford the costs.

"By doing so, we would seek to work more collaboratively with communities and memorial owners, as facilitator for remedial works," said the report.

It is also developing a programme to improve standards of cemetery upkeep across the region.