All tributes left by loved ones on graves and memorials are being removed in a Calderdale-wide “tidy” of graveyards and cemeteries.
Mourners have been going to visit relatives’ and friends’ burial plots and crematorium memorials only to find the mementoes they left there gone.
Calderdale Council says it is removing all “unauthorised memorabilia” from its sites after complaints about Park Wood Crematorium in Elland being “untidy and not well kept”.
But Danielle Clarke, from Greetland, says families are not being warned about the move.
She was devastated when she visited her grandparents’ memorial at Park Wood Crematorium and found a small plaque her family had placed there missing, and thought it had been stolen.
When she went to report the theft to the crematorium, she said she was told all tributes were in the process of being removed.
She said she was shown a room at the crematorium office where they had all been piled up.
“They said they would be moving on to the kerbside memorials, then the benches, then the children’s memorials,” she said.
“The plaque we had put there was small - between the size of a tablet and a mobile phone - and we’ve had it there for six years.
“I’m disgusted they’re not telling people.”
The news has caused outrage from Courier readers. Debbie Neal posted on the Courier’s Facebook page: “All of my mum and dad’s things have gone, things their grandchildren put there.
“It’s bad enough dealing with the loss of your parents, but then to find things that mean a lot to you just gone is disgusting.
“We should be informed so at least we can have them back! They may mean nothing to you but they mean everything to the people who have placed them there.”
Calderdale Council’s head of neighbourhoods, Andrew Pitts, said: “Calderdale Council understands that people choose to remember their loved ones in different ways, but it is also committed to making sure people can grieve in a place which is safe, accessible, tidy and well kept.
“As part of this responsibility, the council has a policy which says that only memorials supplied by the council are allowed to be placed in the gardens of remembrance at the crematorium.
“The introduction of privately built and/or owned memorials is not permitted.
“When people buy a burial plot in a cemetery from the council, or a memorial in the crematorium, the paperwork they sign clearly states that the council will take away any unauthorised memorabilia without notice.
“The borough-wide policy is in place to make sure memorial items are not stolen or damaged, which could cause further distress to bereaved families. The items can also cause obstructions, which make the area inaccessible and unsafe for visitors and staff, and difficult for the council to maintain the grounds to a high standard - for example, it can prevent grass cutting, clearing of paths and preparation of nearby plots for future burials.
“Over time the number of unauthorised memorials has increased, and the council is receiving a high number of complaints from visitors to the crematorium about the grounds being untidy and not well kept.
“The council understands people’s concerns and items are being removed carefully and sensitively, and stored in a safe place where people can come and collect them to take home.
“The council apologises for any upset that this has caused, however it has no option but to apply the policy, which it is doing in all areas of the crematorium and in all of its cemeteries across the borough. Crematoria throughout the country are doing the same.
“Further guidance can be found on Calderdale Council’s website.”