BY TOBY PORTER
A pensioner is fuming that he cannot pay proper respects to his parents who lived through the Blitz because their graves are overgrown and inaccessible.
John Chilton , from Wandsworth Road, Clapham has been visiting the last resting place of his mother and father in Lambeth Cemetery twice a month for more than 43 years.
But town hall chiefs have told him that cuts have meant they have to reduce the number of times the grass is cut in the graveyard in Blackshaw Road, Tooting.
“It is not just about reaching the graves, it is a safety issue because you cannot see the divots in the turf,” he said. “They must mow the grass more regularly.
“I find it very hard to believe something cannot be done. There seems to be no compassion in the world any more.
“It is all about cuts but this is one cut they should not be making. There must be something in the environmental budget put aside for this.”
John has been told his parents’ burial plot expires in 2021, and the cost to renew for another 50 years is £4,500 or £2,250 for 25 years.
“My father Victor was evacuated from Dunkirk and was never the same after that. He suffered from stress as a result – though we would not have known to call it that in those days. He died in 1971,” he said.
“My mum Annie, who we laid to rest in 2004, told me all about what it was like during all the bombing in the war in Nine Elms – they put up with terrible things.
“I think it is a disgrace they cannot put money aside to make sure a cemetery is looked after for the children of those families.
“West Norwood Cemetery is okay because they have an action committee to tackle it. We need to get some sort of group together to force Lambeth to do something about it.
“But there is nothing like that at the moment in Blackshaw Road. Even the office which used to be there is now shut – it has been transferred to Streatham Cemetery.”
John said on a visit in July that two women approached him and said their parents were buried there, too – and they were having the same problem.
One, aged 82, was from Carshalton, and the other, aged 76, was from Merton, he said.
“They asked me to place flowers on their parents’ graves,” he added. “One of them was crying. She said ‘If you had not been here, we could not have put our flowers on their graves.’
“People of that age should not have to be put through that ordeal.“I told them to complain to their local MP, but they said they did not want to cause a fuss.”
He has also heard people suggest that sparse town hall resources should be spent on the living, and not the dead.
“I have never wanted to highlight a Lambeth council problem in my life before – I have voted Labour all my life,” he said.
“There were once up to 20 people who tended those graves. Then it was
tendered out to a contractor and it has not been done properly so it was taken back in-house.
“Now it is just six people trying to tend to four cemeteries. I don’t know how they cope with so few – but the results are there to see.
“But I want my granddaughter to be able to go down there for as long as possible so she can remember the sacrifices our parents’ generation made for us.”
A council spokesman said: “We apologise for any distress and inconvenience caused, and are confident the situation will shortly be addressed.
“Grass grows at its quickest in July and August, stretching our resources to their maximum.
“The grass at our cemeteries is cut every six to eight weeks, and our team were back at Blackshaw Road Cemetery on Monday after we received the complaint. “We are confident this will remedy the situation.
“Information on the grass cutting schedule is advertised on A-boards at the cemetery entrance, and the council is currently recruiting two new staff, which will cut the time between grass cutting.”