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Gravestone rejection is 'racist'

PUBLISHED: 16:00 09 December 2009 | UPDATED: 11:18 23 August 2010

ANGRY: Glen Shipston

ANGRY: Glen Shipston

A FAMILY has accused their council of racial discrimination over a failed gravestone application. Glen and Teresa Shipston, of Dickens Close, Hartley, dispute Hartley Parish Council s decision to refuse an application for a Mediterranean style headstone

A FAMILY has accused their council of racial discrimination over a failed gravestone application.

Glen and Teresa Shipston, of Dickens Close, Hartley, dispute Hartley Parish Council's decision to refuse an application for a Mediterranean style headstone for their mother Angelina Hall.

Mrs Hall died in February aged 76, and was buried in the Church Road cemetery which is run by the council.

Relatives want a stone added to the plot with a small photo plaque (5cm by 7cm) fitted to it, a common practice in Mrs Hall's native Italy, but have been told this is against rule 18 of the council's Burial Ground regulations regarding monuments.

At a council burial committee meeting at the end of November the decision was upheld and they are now considering legal action.

Mr Shipston, 40, has taken the matter to his MP Howard Stoate and the North West Kent Racial Equality Council, stating the parish council's actions are in breach of the 1976 Race Relations Act by discriminating against his mother in law's customs.

He added: "They are not even willing to discuss it

"We are going to reapply, but they appear to have already made up their minds. I have written to them asking that they reconsider."

Mr Shipston says his mother-in-law had lived in Hartley parish for most of her life, and had brought her family up here, so was a member of the community who should be treated equally.

He also claims a similar grave already existed in the cemetery and argued the council did not uphold other regulations such as rules over maintaining turf over graves.

"There are dozens of graves that do not comply, not that we are bothered by this, but it is not fair for the Parish Council to select those rules they wish to enforce and those they don't," he argued.

Julie Hoad, clerk to Hartley Parish Council, defended the council's decision.

"Burial authorities, in this case Hartley Parish Council, have powers under the Local Authorities' Order 1977 to do all that is necessary or desirable for the proper management, regulation and control of a cemetery.

"The applicant wishes to place a photo plaque on the memorial which is contrary to Hartley Parish Council's rules relating to memorials in Hartley Burial Ground."

She explained that the council is seeking legal advice regarding the accusation of race relations laws and is waiting for this advice before returning to the Shipston family.

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