Woman loses court bid to be buried next to her dad in village church yard

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A woman has failed in her bid to make sure she is reunited in death with relatives who are buried in a church yard near where she lives.

After a flood of objections from local residents a judge in the Church of England’s Consistory Court has refused permission for Alison Allen, 49, who lives in the parish of Wimblington less than two miles away from St Mary’s Church, Doddington, to reserve a grave space.

Chancellor of the Diocese of Ely, Judge Leonard QC, in his role as a judge of the Consistory Court said he had “great sympathy” for Mrs Allen’s “natural desire to be buried with her forebears.

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However, rejecting her plea he said there had been a policy at the church for 15 years that grave space could not be reserved and continued: “I can find no grounds on which to allow a gravespace reservation which goes against the Parochial Church Council (PCC) policy.”

Judge Leonard said Mrs Allen had given him a list of relations going back to her great grandparents who are buried there. She wanted to reserve a plot next to the grave of her father who also had not lived in the parish.

The vicar of the church has already refused her permission but she told the judge she could not understand how the vicar could have the power to decide whether she could be buried in the churchyard without considering the impact on her personally.

She has set out what the impact is on her and her family said the judge. He said she had “been deeply devastated” by being told that she could not be buried there and by the refusal of the PCC to support her application for permission.

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Her application to the Consistory Court to overturn the PCC’s refusal had brought a flood of letters of objection which the judge said all made similar points.

“They object because it is unfair to others who have not sought reservations because of the policy of the PCC if this application was allowed,” he said.

The letters, he said had come from: “Victoria Collett, Stephen Tooke, Revd Sheila Tooke, the incumbent and assistant minister (Revds Ian and Lynda Brady), Patricia Chambers, Susan Harlock, Gemma Watts, Richard and Jennifer Holding, Sally Graham, Ernest Graham, H Bradshaw, Gillian Wyles, Jane Archer, Eileen Clapham, Lucy Spencer, Andrew and Elizabeth Dunkley, Victoria Smith, June Valentine, Alan Davis, Raymond Mason, L Payne, D Wheatley and someone in Newgate Street whose signature is illegible.”

The judge said that Mrs Allen “found the tone and language used by the objectors to be totally unacceptable which has added to the complete upset and distress over the whole application.”

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He added: “She wants it to be clearly stated that, to make the application to reserve a grave space does not amount to “pushing her luck” or to seeking “special rights or privileges”, and “not abiding by the rules”, expressions she has lifted from the documents written by the objectors.”

However, turning down her plea he said the policy of now allowing reservation of grave space had been in place for 15 years and that as Chancellor of Ely he should support it unless it revealed “bad faith or is wholly unreasonable.”

“I do not find bad faith and I find the policy wholly reasonable,” he said. “Having considered all the competing arguments I come down firmly in favour of refusing the application.”

He continued: “Whilst I have great sympathy for the Petitioner’s position and her natural desire to be buried with her forebears, I can find no grounds on which to allow a gravespace reservation which goes against the PCC’s policy. If I was to favour the Petitioner I would have to do so to the detriment of other parishioners who have accepted the PCC’s policy as being both sensible and fair to all. This application for a faculty (permission) is refused.”

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