Grieving families have been left furious after a council stripped graves, including that of a baby, of personal tributes without telling them.
Staff at North Walsham council removed flowers, plants, angels and other emotional ornaments from graves earlier this month for ‘heath and safety reasons’.
But heatbroken families say they were not told of the callous operation while items removed were dumped by a fence in a corner of the cemetery.
Hayley Wright, 37, from North Walsham, Norfolk, lost her 22-month-old baby son Ryan four years ago after he was killed by a deadly cancerous tumour called a neuroblastoma.
Mrs Wright said she was horrified to find the angel, scarecrow and potted plants she had left at the cemetery near her home taken away.
She said: ‘How dare they do this? I was absolutely devastated. It felt like I’d lost my son all over again.’
Gareth Ducker, 37, said the local town council had ‘refused’ to send someone to talk about the crackdown with residents.
Mr Ducker said: ‘It’s outrageous that they can get away with this. Whoever decided to do this needs to stand up and explain themselves to us.
‘They could have at least given us 14 or 28 days’ notice, but there was nothing.’
He added: ‘These are people’s loved ones and it’s still very raw for a lot of people.’
Gillian Farrow, 68, of North Walsham, said: ‘I think it’s disgusting. They took some spare pots off my mum and dad’s grave.
‘This is worse than what a vandal would do – it’s totally outrageous.’
Sean Smiles, who lives in the area, said: ‘The things people put there were like the last tributes to loved ones.
‘We’ve been absolutely devastated by this.’
The community is now banding together to launch a petition demanding that their precious keepsakes and tokens of their love are put back.
But North Walsham mayor Sallie Stuckey today defended the council’s heavy-handed approach as she insisted items removed from graves had been ‘inappropriate’.
Ms Stuckey said: ‘Unfortunately it has become necessary to apply our regulations more stringently in the town’s cemeteries in order to ensure that we offer a safe and accessible area that meets our obligations and our duty of care.
‘Action has been taken concurrently with the issue of letters to rights holders due to a number of hazards and discovery of items that were inappropriate for a place of remembrance and respect.’