FAMILIES who have lost their children have asked for a “beautiful, colourful tribute” to be built in Thatcham.
West Berkshire Stillborn and Neonatal Death charity (Sands) wants to install a memorial garden to complement the baby section at the London Road Cemetery, owned by Thatcham Town Council.
The charity is fundraising for a circular six-metre garden with a central statue and memorial plaques, plus seating.
Another memorial area at the opposite end of the cemetery is also being proposed.
The charity’s co-chairwoman Rachel Telford explained the request to town councillors at a meeting last Monday.
She said that Sands was supporting more than 30 bereaved families in West Berkshire and that three of the babies buried at the cemetery belonged to families the charity was assisting.
“It’s not something we are asking for, it’s something our bereaved families are asking for,” she said.
“They want a beautiful, colourful tribute to our lost babies.
“We just want to make it a beautiful place to have your children buried and go to reflect on your children.”
Mrs Telford added that Sands volunteers were willing to maintain the memorial and gardens and that it would be open to parents across the district.
Sheila Ellison (Con, Thatcham North) asked why the charity had chosen Thatcham and not other cemeteries in the district.
“We did approach the crematorium but they weren’t willing to entertain the idea,” Mrs Telford said.
She explained that the town council’s cemetery officer, Rosie Jardine, had approached the charity after reading about an event.
“Thank God she did because we were stuck at that point,” Mrs Telford said.
When asked about the staying power for maintaining the memorial, Mrs Telford said: “It will be run by bereaved families.
“I’m a bereaved mother, I’m emotionally connected.
“Going to see an overgrown grave is quite emotional.”
Rob Denton-Powell (Con, Thatcham South and Crookham) said: “Demand for a memorial like this continues year on year.
“It puts the knackers on the longevity argument. I don’t think that stands and it’s disingenuous to the charity.”
Mrs Ellison said the proposal was exemplary, but raised concerns over the size of the garden as the cemetery “might be short of places to put people in years to come”.
She said that an unofficial arrangement around maintenance might be needed.
Lee Dillon (Lib Dem, Thatcham North) said that the council would be liable if a volunteer was injured at the cemetery.
He added that an agreement over babies from outside Thatcham would need to made.
“It’s a fairly emotive subject and a difficult one, but one we have to look at,” he said. “We have an agreed fee for parishoners and non-parishoners.
“It needs to come back with a full proposal.”
“I think we are in favour of the idea, but the devil is in the detail,” Mrs Ellison concluded.