Bereaved families who wish to remember their loved ones with a permanent memorial on Council land will now be able to plant a tree in their memory.
Causeway Coast and Glens Council has voted to adopt a policy whereby they no longer provide memorial benches at the request of bereaved families but a tree instead.
The issue was raised at Tuesday’s meeting of the Environmental Services Committee when Director Aidan McPeak told members that the four legacy councils all had different or no policies on the matter.
Mr McPeak said: “Legacy councils had different approaches for dealing with requests by members of the public who wished to sponsor the provision of a memorial in memory of a deceased family member.
“In some cases no policy existed and there was an ad hoc arrangement to such requests.
“Over the years a number of benches have been provided and sited through the Borough.
“Since 1st April there have been seven separate requests to have a memorial bench placed in memory of a loved one in Council parks/open spaces.
“If Council were to accede to each request, this will present difficulties in the management and, in particular, the cost of maintaining benches due to vandalism etc.
“There is also the issue of funding suitable locations as the sites preferred by relatives are becoming saturated.
“There are also the sensitivities around the removal of benches which have reached the end of their life span or need to be moved for operational reasons.
“In 2012 (the former) Coleraine Council discontinued their policy of facilitating every request and offered the alternative of planting a tree. All costs associated with the tree planting would be borne by the requester”.
The committee agreed to adopt the policy of planting a tree rather than providing a bench, with each tree bearing a small plaque with the name of the person being remembered.
During the discussion, Cllr Gerry Mullan asked would it not be possible to place the memorial benches in Council cemeteries.
He said that some graveyards do not have seats and, in some cases, people visiting relatives’ graves are forced to sit on the graveside. Cllr Russell Watton agreed with this.
Mr McPeak said it could be investigated if members wished.