People who have been living in tents in the churchyard at St Mary’s Church in Slough town centre are to be served notice to leave or have their belongings removed.
The action by the council, with the support of the church, follows complaints and evidence of:
- the pitching of tents on graves, memorial plaques and monuments leaving residents unable to visit deceased relatives
- human fouling and urination in the churchyard and on graves
- public drug taking and alcohol consumption
- drug and alcohol waste
- uncontrolled fires which have caused damage to burial sites and memorials
The notice will be served on the tent-dwellers on Thursday 31 January, giving them until Monday 4 February to remove all tents and associated materials.
Any tents and materials still on site on Monday 4 February at 9am will be removed and destroyed.
Ian Blake, enforcement team leader, said: “The church has been patient for a very long time but the behaviour by the people living in these tents, and the tents themselves, are having a severe and detrimental effect on the area and on the relatives of those buried at St. Mary’s.
“We have been undertaking intensive outreach work with the people in the tents but they have been unwilling to change their behaviour or access any of the services we have sign posted them to.
“The most recent fire where grave sites and memorials were deliberately placed in the fire was the point where we all had to say no more.”
Councillor Pavitar K Mann, lead member for regulatory services, said: “We all feel heart-sore at the plight of some of our homeless residents and the circumstances that have driven them to camp in this way.
“However, there are multiple organisations who are there to help, and that we have signposted them to, but unfortunately nothing has changed.
“Churchyards are hallowed ground and do not deserve to be disrespected in this way. We need to take action to protect the resting places of those who have come before us.”
The formal notice also gives the tent-dwellers the names and addresses of organisations where they can get help with homelessness and health and addiction issues.
Image is of the remains of the fire where monuments were damaged.