A GRAVE maintenance service is set to be offered by the Friends of Darwen Cemetery if a new scheme goes ahead.

The group has launched the service to help those who live far away or are unable to tend family graves. Before the service can be signed up to, friends’ volunteers will do a one-off clear up of the grave site, undertaking heavy work to ensure the grave is left in an easy-to-maintain state.

This will involve removing the top 5cm of soil and covering the grave space in weed control membrane and a layer of white stone chippings. For an annual fee of £20, volunteers will then rake the stone chipping four times a year and keep the grave weed free. The group will not touch perpetuity graves, which are looked after by Blackburn with Darwen Council, although only a few remain and the service is no longer offered. Group chairman John East said: “People who live away can commission us to maintain the graves. This is work the family would normally do as the only graves touched by the borough council would be perpetuity graves. The money made from the service will be put back into the cemetery through the work of our group.”

Organisers said that in order for the scheme to run effectively, a manager, clerk and volunteers would be required.

Blackburn with Darwen executive member for environment Coun Faryad Hussain said: “I think this is a very good idea from the Friends of Darwen Cemetery.

“It is innovative, will be a good affordable service for relatives and will help the group get income to continue its great work within the cemetery.

“We are fully supportive of it. By everyone working together we can make the borough a better place.

“The council no longer offers a perpetuity service and there are only a very few graves still maintained under this scheme.”