HOLMES Chapel churchwarden Steve Smith has urged people not to take it upon themselves to clear rubbish from a village churchyard.

His call follows action by village resident Jackie Robbins to remove dead flowers and old wreaths from the cemetery at St Luke’s Church in Holmes Chapel.

Bins near the entrance were full after the winter suspension of the council’s collection service, and Mr Smith arrived to find Mrs Robbins filling a skip she had been offered.

He made her aware that the church employed a contractor to clear the rubbish and people could not begin clearing rubbish without telling the church what they were going to do.

Mr Smith, a warden at St Luke’s, became aware of the issue after seeing pictures on Facebook of overflowing bins at the churchyard.

As a result he instructed a contractor to take the rubbish away, only to be told by the contractor that Mrs Robbins had cleared it.

Mrs Robbins, from Cranage, whose father’s grave is in the churchyard, had filled her car with rubbish on Sunday, March 23, and posted pictures on Facebook.

A firm provided a skip the next day to take the rest of the rubbish.

“There had been concern on Facebook by Mrs Robbins that there was quite a lot of dead flowers and old wreaths beside the path as you go into the cemetery, adjacent to council bins which were full to the brim,” said Mr Smith.

“We had already instructed our contractor to take away the rubbish, and while I accept Mrs Robbins was being helpful it resulted in confusion and an overlap of responsibility.

“If people believe the situation is unsatisfactory we would be only too delighted to have voluntary help, but we have a contractor we employ to look after the general condition of the churchyard and need people to tell us in advance of any problems and not to unilaterally take action themselves.”

He said the vicar or the churchwardens could be contacted about such issues.

“However none of us was approached over this, and if someone had contacted us none of this would have happened,” he added.

Mrs Robbins said she filled her car with rubbish from the bins, and took it to a household waste site.

She returned the next day to fill a skip with the remaining rubbish, helped by the man who had provided the skip.

“To our utter astonishment a man arrived, who seemed to be a churchwarden, asking who gave us permission and saying we had no right to tidy up,” she said.

“We were totally amazed and shocked that we were being told off for tidying up. We left, mission accomplished, and a very tidy entrance to the graveyard.”