Polling station set to remain at Stevenage cemetery chapel despite objections

PUBLISHED: 08:30 24 October 2019

The chapel at Weston Road Cemetery is still listed as a polling station, despite objections. Picture: Bev Argent

The chapel at Weston Road Cemetery is still listed as a polling station, despite objections. Picture: Bev Argent

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Voters in an area of Stevenage will still have to use a polling station at a cemetery chapel, despite objections it is disrespectful to the dead and their loved ones.

People living in one of the three Woodfield polling districts had previously been able to vote at the Canterbury Way Park Pavilion but, when the pavilion closed, the polling station was moved to the chapel at Weston Road Cemetery.

The use of the cemetery's chapel as a polling station has been slammed as disrespectful, and there have been calls for it to be moved.

It has now emerged that council officers have been unable to find an alternative venue within the polling district.

Following Stevenage Borough Council's Review of Parliamentary Polling Districts and Polling Places, the cemetery chapel is still listed as the 'envisaged polling station'.

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"Many different types of buildings are used as polling stations across the UK, including churches, cemeteries, schools and public houses," says a council report.

"The building has now been used for both a local and national poll, and at the most recent European parliamentary election the returning officer did not receive any negative comments in respect of its use as a polling station.

"The area is limited to the cemetery building being the only viable polling station available.

"For those who do find accessing the polling station an issue, absent voting arrangements are available, such as postal or proxy voting."

As part of the review the council received complaints about the use of the chapel as a polling station - including one from council leader Sharon Taylor. She said: "I could not support the polling station at Weston Road Cemetery. I know our residents felt very strongly that its use was disrespectful."

Another respondent said: "I do not feel the location is fitting for this and, in the event people are there for a quiet time of contemplation after losing someone - or even just a regular visit, they should not be faced with this [political voting] taking place."

A third objector added: "It is a serene space for grieving families to say goodbye and to remember their loved ones and I find it quite disrespectful for it to be used as a political venue."

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