Selsey Town council vows to support families affected by memorial bench policy

Memorial bench in East Beach, Selsey. Picture by Steve Robards
Memorial bench in East Beach, Selsey. Picture by Steve Robards

Selsey Town Council said it will support individuals and families affected by its contentious memorial bench policy, following an assets and amenities committee meeting.

The Observer reported in December that dedications to loved ones on benches in Selsey could be removed unless families paid £600 to renew their 'ten-year lease'. Read more here.

Dorothy Casserley. Picture by Steve Robards. SR1832747

Dorothy Casserley. Picture by Steve Robards. SR1832747

The memorial bench policy in Selsey was discussed by councillors last Wednesday (January 16), following a letter from outraged residents.

The town council said it has now appointed a 'working group of councillors', including the chair of assets & amenities, to 'examine all the queries that have arisen'.

A spokesman added: "Selsey Town Council considered the memorial policy at its assets and amenities committee meeting.

"We would like to thank all those that attended the meeting and for the representations that were made on behalf of those affected by the revisions made to the policy in March 2018.

"We will be working with the affected individuals and families to resolve the issues in each case."

The spokesman said all queries should be made to enquiries@selseytowncouncil.gov.uk or by visiting its offices at 55 High Street, Selsey.

The town council, which said it 'holds the licence', sent out letters telling families the plaques and benches on East Beach could be sold on to other families if the money was not paid as 'everyone should get the opportunity to hold a dedication in this special location’, as part of its Memorial Bench Policy

As a way of 'challenging the legality' of the council's memorial bench policy, 12 of the memorial bench holders have sent the council a letter, outlining their concerns and intentions to start legal proceedings if the matter is not resolved.

As a result, the council added a discussion about the issue to its agenda for Wednesday's meeting. Speaking ahead of the meeting, a spokesman said: "STC has received correspondence from a few of the current holders of memorial dedication sites, raising queries regarding the current memorial policy.

"It is right that the council, through its committee, should consider this and the issue has therefore been added to the agenda."

According to The Selsey Grapevine Facebook group, the introduction of a 'ten-year lease' for a memorial plaque was a recent ruling, and 'completely different' from the agreement the historical plaques were purchased under.

In a Facebook comment on the Observer page, 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."

Dorothy Casserley, 71, who bought a bench for £500 in 2007 as a memorial for her parents, said the ordeal has had a ‘major affect on her’ and has left her 'nervous and upset'. Read more here.

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