Can you move memorials?

We had an enquiry today asking if special permission is needed to move a war memorial.  In this case there is a dispute between the council and local residents about relocating the town’s war memorial.

The simple answer is that there is no automatic legal protection for war memorials, although it is possible for freestanding memorials to be listed monuments.   Click here to read a help sheet about listing war memorials.

Having said that, town and village war memorials were usually paid for by subscriptions from the local community so, although Local Authorities may assume custodianship for them, they can still be said to be community-owned and councils should be sensitive to residents’ opinions about relocation.

In a few cases it does prove necessary to move memorials.  The free booklet ‘Guidance for Custodians’, (by the Ministry of Justice, formerly the Department for Constitutional Affairs) includes some advice about removal or relocation of memorials.

“It is not always possible or appropriate to keep a war memorial in the place in which it was erected (or is now located); for instance, if the ownership of buildings and land in which it is situated changes, or the memorial needs to undergo major structural or other alterations. In these exceptional circumstances, custodians may need to consider whether the war memorial could be moved.
If the war memorial is primarily associated with a particular organisation, it may be appropriate to relocate the war memorial elsewhere within that organisation’s building or land, even if it will result in removal from its original site.
If a war memorial has a particular association with a geographical area or community which would be lost if it were removed elsewhere, the custodian should consider offering the war memorial to be relocated with another local organisation (or into the care of the local authority).
If it is not practical or feasible to relocate the war memorial and it is not possible for it to remain in its current location, the custodian may need to consider removing the memorial completely – but such action should be considered only as a matter of last resort.
Where it is proposed to relocate or dispose of the war memorial to a new owner or location, custodians should give at least six weeks’ notice to The War Memorials Trust, who may be able to help in finding a suitable new location if required.
Once a war memorial has been relocated, custodians should advise the UK National Inventory of War Memorials and produce a new up to date record of the war memorial and establish who has responsibility for its future upkeep.”

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