UK's Bolton Council bans long-term roadside memorials

Bolton Council in the UK has implemented a scheme that effectively bans long-term roadside memorials.
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The council will allow roadside floral tributes or other temporary memorials for 30 days from the date of the fatality, with anything remaining after that period to be removed. Tributes placed on special anniversary dates will also be allowed for 30 days.

In their place, Bolton Council is planning to erect a permanent memorial in Queen’s Park including a tree and an inscription dedicated to the memory of people killed in road crashes.

Memorials will not be removed until the permanent tribute is completed, but the council reserves the right to remove roadside floral tributes or any other memorials at any time which are considered to present a real hazard or distraction to road users including pedestrians.

But the policy has caused a stir among locals, with one man, 62-year-old Philip Macdougall of Great Lever, organising a number of protests against it.

“It’s cold and callous. The families find some sort of consolation by putting flowers and photos there.“Bolton Council say they take up unnecessary public space. Bolton is 50 miles square (129 square kilometres). If you take all these floral tributes away, you are talking the size of somebody’s garden,” Mr Macdougall said.

Kathleen Rankin joined hundreds of protestors in the town centre last week. Her son was killed by a taxi in Bolton in 2006 and has been honoured by a memorial on that spot ever since.

“I get a lot of comfort from having this where Christopher died. Cars have to slow down because it is next to the traffic lights so I cannot see why it is a distraction.“If anything it will remind drivers to drive responsibly,” she said.

Bolton Council assistant director of highways and engineering, Peter Molyneux, said he sympathised with grieving families but admitted something had to be done about the increasing number of roadside tributes.

“We are not going to please everyone, we realise that. We are not saying that people cannot leave roadside memorials, we just need to manage it. Some memorials are very elaborate,” he said.

A report presented to the council showed that 74 percent of residents agreed that individual permanent roadside memorials should not be allowed while 19 percent disagreed (1081 respondents).

Sixty-one percent thought that 30 days was “about right” for temporary tributes to remain, while 20 percent felt it was too short and 19 percent said too long (1074 respondents).

Fifty-six percent said a tree in a public park was the most appropriate permanent memorial.

The general rule among traffic safety authorities in Australia is that the memorials can stay as long as they are not a distraction to road users. In South Australia they are to remain out of sight from the road.

Uproar was caused in Lynbrook, Victoria, last July when police and VicRoads workers removed a memorial that was believed to be partly responsible for the death of a 21-year-old woman who crashed into a truck.

In the US, roadside memorials are banned in the states of Colorado, Massachusetts and Wisconsin, while residents in California must pay a state fee of US$1000 to erect a memorial.

(with Manchester Evening News, The Bolton News)