Coleraine Borough Council cemeteries are being used by ‘L’ drivers for driver training, according to Council’s Corporate Director of Leisure and Development.
Mr Baker was speaking at last Tuesday’s Council meeting when the issue of vehicular access to cemeteries, excluding Agherton and Kilrea, was being discussed.
A proposal to cease uncontrolled vehicular access to cemeteries was agreed by members, as council officers outlined on-going problems at graveyards.
The meeting heard that traffic congestion has led to anti social behaviour between visitors and that damage has occurred to graves and headstones.
Paul Jess, from Council’s Parks Nursery told members that complaints have been received from clergymen, Coleraine Borough Council staff and undertakers.
He added that members of the public were ‘disrespecting clergymen, council staff and members of the public’.
Members were shocked by what the Council officers told the meeting, as Mr Jess explained that in Ballywillan graveyard in Portrush, cars were driving over graves. He told the meeting that a number of headstones had been damaged.
The Head of Parks Nursery told members that the problem in the cemeteries was that the roads were too narrow and wouldn’t permit two lanes of traffic: “A single road, people have no curtesy - it’s about manners and respect,” Mr Jess said.
He added that at times when there is a funeral congestion is increased, ‘this is why we need to regulate this’,” he said.
Independent councillor Christine Alexander pressed the Council officers on how many incidents of aggressive behaviour had been received.
Mr Jess explained that ‘more and more complaints were coming through’.
The Mayor, councillor George Duddy told the meeting that he had witnessed problems himself during a funeral service, adding: “I couldn’t believe that people could be so insensitive in a graveyard - car doors banging and others walking through mourners to get water as a body was being interred.”
Members agreed in principal on the proposed access arrangements.
Council officers will now investigate and apply the means to effectively restrict general vehicle access, permit access for appropriate traffic, manage parking. The new arrangements will be communicated in due course.