A woman has said she was ‘left in tears’ after the council removed a small board with her father’s name on it from his grave.

She is one of a number of people left shocked by the removal of tributes; but Blackburn with Darwen Council has defended the action as the items fell foul of its rules within the new section of Pleasington Cemetery.

Saimah Arshad said her father, who died on June 6, was buried in the new Muslim section of Pleasington Cemetery in Blackburn.

She said the family have been visiting the grave regularly and were ‘shocked’ to see a temporary board with his name and the Islamic Kalima, written in Arabic, had been removed from the plot.

Also gone was a border which had been placed around the grave.

It comes as another woman, Dr A. Mirza, said she had been told plants on her mother’s grave would be removed by July 24.

She said her family was ‘horrified’ over the removal of ornaments from the grave.

Blackburn with Darwen Council said it ‘sympathised’ with families, but these rules were in force for people of all faiths within the new section of the cemetery.

In April, it was revealed the council would be enforcing new rulings on the new section of the cemetery, which banned any ‘temporary structures or planting of trees or shrubs on the site.’

Following a consultation with mosque representatives, over the summer an agreement had been reached that plants could be placed in pots next to graves.

It was agreed there would no restrictions on flowers to be placed at sites anywhere in the cemetery, but these would be removed within two weeks by staff within the new section.

The new area is a ‘lawned area’ and families are also told that the mounds of graves would have to be no higher than six inches.

The Blackburn Muslim Burial Society said it was concerned over some of the new rulings being forced on mourners.

In a statement the council, clarified what could be placed onto or into the grave, grave mound or mid-feather at any time.

This included, ‘kerb-sets, concrete, ornaments, fencing, stones, trees and bricks,' as long as they abide by the six inch height rules.

If any such items are placed on the grave itself, 'these would be removed.’

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Saimah Arshad said her father’s grave and others on the stretch had been cleared on her last visit.

She said: “I learnt of the rulings and I did think the border may be removed but what have they done to the board?

“I come every few days to maintain it regularly and I just ended up crying. I think it is really disrespectful.

“I don’t know where the board is and it had my father’s name on it and the Kalima.

“They could have left that there.

“I just feel so angry they are just going to do this to people’s graves. Why can’t they just leave these things? They are not doing anyone any harm whatsoever and to treat grieving families like this is wrong.”

Saimah had launched a petition which had already been signed by 400 people within a day of its launch.

She said close by other grave sites had been ‘left alone’ and only the Muslim section had been policed in this way.

She added: “There are all sorts of pots, flowers and ornaments.

"People like to pay their respects in their own way and I think that is fine and it helps with the grieving process.”

These, the council said were within the cremated section, which was a ‘stoned floor’ and the rulings did not apply there.

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Dr Mirza said her family was ‘horrified’ to see ornaments removed from her mother’s grave.

In a letter to the council she said: “Our grief is still so raw and we are feeling lost and broken, and raising a complaint is the last thing we or indeed the other families want to do, but we are left with little choice.

“Imagine our horror when we arrived at the cemetery to find all the personal mementos, lovingly handmade and picked, had been removed.

“Anything and everything from every grave had been removed without any prior notification or any courtesy or consideration given to the bereft families. 

“Furthermore, a ‘polite’ notice was left on each grave referring to existing rules and regulations of the cemetery, adding in a link to the Blackburn and Darwen Council website.”

She added: “Grief is hard enough to handle and visiting the cemetery is a means of finding peace and solace to come to terms with our loss.

"Instead we are having to fight for our right to simply grieve in a way that follows our culture and religion.”

She said families should be given more clarification on the rulings.

“We have been told when we have called up the cemetery that we can only have headstones not kerbs," she added.

"We also are not allowed to have any plants on the grave because you want it to look ‘uniformed’ as things have ‘got out of hand elsewhere’. 

“We are basically being punished for the lack of management within the cemetery over the years.

"You only need to look further down in the cemetery where the majority of the graves have kerbs, plants, solar lights and trees etc.

“Yet we are told we are not allowed and ‘politely’ threatened that in two weeks’ time the plants will be removed.

"These plants and flowers are all lovingly planted from our mother's garden onto her grave, causing no harm to anyone.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council has said while it sympathised with families, it has released a detailed statement into what can and cannot be left at graves at the new burial section.

Tony Watson, Head of Environment, said: “Firstly, we sympathise with the lady in question and can assure her – and others – that the cremated remains section she makes reference to is an area totally separate to the graves on the extension at Pleasington, which has a stone floor, precluding any growing of plants, flowers or shrubs.

“Arrangements for collecting items that have been removed – such as this boarding – can be made at the Pleasington Cemetery office between the opening hours of 9am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.”

The council also said 130 trees have had to be removed from graves in the old section of the cemetery because the tree roots had compromised the graves.

With regards to the rulings, Mr Watson said: “In April and May this year, Blackburn with Darwen Council conducted a comprehensive information exercise with many local residents and mosque representatives, detailing existing rules about burial arrangements.

“Following constructive dialogue, the Council made amendments to the current policy, whilst still remaining within the original planning permission granted for the cemetery extension.

“These rules and regulations can be found online at the council website, plus are also available on the correspondence form that is completed upon purchase of the grave, or can be viewed in person at the Pleasington Cemetery office during opening hours.

“These existing cemetery-wide arrangements allow for small plants, and also flowers to be placed in a small vase or pot only, that must be sited next to the memorial headstone or plinth. 

“Floral tributes and fresh flowers can be laid on the grave at any time throughout the year, however at no time should flowers, plants, shrubs or trees, be planted within the grave space. 

“The plants, floral tributes or flowers in pots/vases or floral tributes/flowers laid on the grave will only need removing or replacing when they are perished. 

“We appreciate that families and loved ones may not be familiar with the cemetery rules and regulations that have been in place at the extension since the first burials took place there in 2014, and we are asking grave owners to ensure that their grave is kept in accordance with the lawned cemetery planning approval. 

“Nothing can be placed onto or into the grave, grave mound or mid-feather at any time.

"This includes, kerb-sets, concrete, ornaments, fencing, stones, trees, bricks etc. If any such items are placed on the grave, they will be removed. 

“These regulations and bylaws are applicable to all faiths who bury their dead in the extension.”